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Cities Community Vista Vista Featured

Vista approves marijuana fee program

VISTA — Another piece of the marijuana puzzle has fallen into place.

During its June 23 meeting, the City Council approved a new fee structure for medicinal cannabis dispensaries under Measure Z. As of July 1, marijuana businesses will be subject to yearly fees of $23,000 for non-delivery businesses and $28,000 for those with delivery services.

Aly Zimmerman, Vista’s assistant city manager, said the program is intended to recover 100% of costs for staff time, consultant’s fees and other expenses.

“Staff intends to track the hours spent on each permit for the next 18 months and will return to the City Council with any modifications needed,” she said.

On Dec. 10, 2019, the council approved authorizing an unlimited number of cannabis testing facilities, along with two of each for manufacturing and distribution centers in the Vista Business Park Specific Plan. Also, the council approved delivery services for permitted businesses under Measure Z.

Currently, there are six medicinal cannabis businesses operating in Vista, which would result in total annual permit fees between $138,000 and $168,000, depending on the number of businesses with delivery privileges.

The council’s adoption of new regulations permitting certain forms of cannabis testing, manufacturing, distribution and delivery included requirements for cannabis businesses to be subject to annual financial auditing by the city, according to the staff report. In most cases, those businesses are also subject to quarterly regulatory inspections.

The coordination of these inspections and fee program will be folded into the Cannabis Management Program (CMP) overseen by the city manager’s office.

Zimmerman said the city’s consultant calculated 185 hours per business to assess the fee program. Those hours multiplied by nine, which is the total number of operating businesses anticipated when the study was conducted, for a total of 1,678 project hours per year.

Those hours are spread among various city departments resulting in a recommended base annual permit fee of $23,000 per business. Those businesses subject to quarterly inspections — retailers with delivery or manufacturers, distributors and testing laboratories —require an additional 20 hours per year of staff time, resulting in a permit fee of $28,000 per business.

Zimmerman said Vista’s fee structure is in line with other cities in the state; however, those allowing marijuana charge between $15,000 to $30,000 and more per year.

Also, Zimmerman said those cannabis businesses in operation as of July 1 will be notified prior to the implementation of the program.

New cannabis businesses permitted after June 30, or after implementation of the CMP, whichever is later, shall pay CMP fees upon the issuance of its business license. The CMP fees will be due annually with the renewal of the business license; although, the first year of fees may be prorated to the implementation date of the CMP.

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