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Here’s what it looks like when a town uses a lottery system for marijuana biz licenses

Officials often boast about doing things the Long Beach way, and Thursday’s lottery drawing for medical marijuana licenses was no different.

Shortly after 9 a.m., officials kicked off a process inside City Hall that would allow a limited number of applicants to move toward opening a dispensary in town. It began with City Clerk Monique DeLaGarza opening sealed bags of lottery balls that had been stored inside a safe until Thursday. Each ball was assigned a number that matched an address where an applicant sought to open a medical marijuana dispensary.

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She placed the balls, one by one, on top of a brand new lottery machine before dropping them into a clear basin with a steady stream of air shuffled them around. The first 10 numbers drawn that did not violate buffer zones (more than 1,000 feet from an already approved dispensary) were allowed to move forward.

“I think it was a very smooth process,” the clerk said after the first round of addresses were chosen.

However, several addresses received as many as a dozen applications each, so officials had to hold a second round drawing that narrowed it down to one applicant per address. All that were not selected to move forward immediately in the first or second rounds were placed on separate wait lists in the event one of the applicants did not make it through the extensive approval process. There were a total of 77 applications for 21 addresses.

Being selected Thursday did not guarantee each applicant a business license, rather, it gave them the green light to advance to the next stage in the process, according to Ajay Kolluri, assistant to the city manager, who organized the drawing.

Dozens of applicants competed in the lottery for the remaining 10 slots out of a total of 32 medical marijuana dispensaries that will be allowed in town under Measure MM, a ballot measure approved by Long Beach voters in November that repealed a local ban on such businesses.

Medical marijuana advocates and members of the Long Beach Collective Association drafted Measure MM last year, following a lengthy city process that involved efforts to create a local ordinance to legalize medicinal cannabis. That effort ultimately failed in 2016 when elected officials could not reach consensus on the law’s parameters.

The measure gave priority access to applicants who had won a slot in a 2010 medical marijuana lottery that allowed businesses to open for a short time before the city reinstated a cannabis ban. Twenty-two priority applicants are moving through the approval process, with prospective locations spread in nearly every district across the city.

Here are the 10 addresses picked on Thursday:

  • 1365 W. Pacific Coast Highway
  • 2115 E. 10th St.
  • 1319 W. 14th St.
  • 2800 E. 4th St.
  • 3730 E. Broadway
  • 5630 E. Pacific Coast Highway
  • 1621 E. Spring St.
  • 6150 Cherry Ave.
  • 5900 E. Spring St.
  • 1940 E. Del Amo Blvd.

After marijuana advocates turned to the ballot initiative process, city officials asked voters to approve a referendum, Measure MA, allowing Long Beach to set marijuana tax rates different from those proposed in Measure MM. City finance officials estimate Measure MA will generate more than $5 million in new tax dollars next year, money earmarked for increased public safety resources and enforcement.

California voters in November also legalized recreational marijuana under Proposition 64, although the business license process will not begin until early 2018. Long Beach has not yet determined whether it will permit recreational marijuana businesses once the statewide regulations are rolled out. It is illegal to operate any marijuana business in the City of Long Beach without having the proper state and/or local licenses.

Long Beach’s first fully licensed medical marijuana dispensary under Measure MM, the LB Green Room, is slated to open in the coming days.

The city is currently accepting applications for the other four medical marijuana business types: cultivation, laboratory testing, manufacturing, and distribution. The application period will remain open indefinitely because, unlike with dispensaries, Measure MM did not set a cap on these types of businesses.

This story was first published on TheCannifornian.com