40 businesses want to establish a marijuana business in Montebello

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Montebello has received so many applications to establish a marijuana business in town — about 40 — that city officials are scrambling to figure out how to review all of them with their small staff .

In February, the City Council voted 3-2 to allow commercial indoor cultivation, manufacturing and testing of marijuana, although no retail dispensaries, as a way to bring in revenue. The council set up a three-step process for would-be cannabis entrepreneurs: first staff would review the application, then an appointed committee would and finally the City Council.

But just starting the first step has been problematic, City Manager Andrew Pasmant said.

Pasmant went to the City Council on Wednesday, seeking permission to hire a contractor to help review the applications. He was told to go back and get more than one bid.

“We need some help,” Pasmant told the council.

Council members, especially those who opposed legalizing marijuana in the first place, said the process should be done right.

“I see what staff is referring to. We’re understaffed,” said Councilwoman Vivian Romero, who voted against legalization. “We’ve got people overworked. (But) I don’t know why we’re rushing this. We need to slow it down.”

Councilman Bill Molinari, another marijuana opponent, said the consultant whose contract was before the council Wednesday,  Infrastructure Engineers Inc. of Brea, eventually could pose a conflict of interest for the city. In a company newsletter, it offers its services to marijuana providers.

Mayor Vanessa Delgado believes the situation can be managed to avoid conflicts, she said in a Friday telephone interview. “We don’t even know if they have any clients in our city.”

Delgado, who has supported bringing marijuana to Montebello as a way padding the city’s depleted coffers, took a wait-and-see attitude toward the seemingly high number of prospective marijuana-related business owners, whose applications the city is not not releasing to the public.

“My sense is that not all of them will be valid,” she said. “They won’t qualify. I don’t know the merits of each.”

For example, some probably filed provisionally because they don’t have a leased site, she said.

The number Montebello received seems to be similar to other cities, Councilman Jack Hadjinian, another supporter of marijuana, said in a Friday telephone interview.

Meanwhile, city staff has proposed adding marijuana “distribution” and “delivery-only retailers” as allowed uses in the city. The Planning Commission is expected to consider the proposal at its 6:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting.

Delgado said the new language is really a clarification because Proposition 64, the 2016 initiative legalizing marijuana, allows for a licensed distributor to deliver marijuana.

“We’re not allowing dispensaries,” she said. “I’ve gone on the record to say I would not support dispensaries.”

However, marijuana opponents, like Linda Nicklas, don’t trust the city. “I think they’re playing with words,” Nicklas said. “It’s one step from bringing in dispensaries.”

The proposed ordinance also prohibit marijuana businesses from operating next to homes.

By: Mike Sprague, Whittier Daily News

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