Vista – North County’s New Cannabis Capital

Three major cannabis-related measures were on the city of Vista’s November 2018 ballot.

First, and most prominently, is Measure Z. A referendum which 8,000 Vista voters made possible to appear on this year’s ballot – largely in response to Vista’s long-standing dismissive attitude towards the cannabis industry, and the fallout that position has left on the affected communities.  Despite medical cannabis being legal in California for over 20 years, Vista has spent millions in tax dollars not only thwarting safe and regulated access to medical cannabis that patients in Vista depend on, but feverishly prosecuting the sale of medical cannabis altogether. However, through the power of voting, victory was had on November 6th, 2018 for Vista’s pro-cannabis population.

Measure Z is a citizen’s initiative that would allow for up to 11 medical cannabis retail storefronts to operate within the commercial, industrial, business park, and mixed use zoning districts of Vista.

In response, the Vista City Council integrated Measures AA and BB onto the ballot. “Yes” votes on the added Measures, AA & BB, much like Measure Z, supported by Vistans for Safe Community Access, would further lay the regulatory groundwork for cannabis legalization in Vista. Measure BB would allow for up to three non-storefront (delivery only) medical cannabis dispensaries and up to two product safety testing laboratories to operate within the city limits. Proposition BB gives citizens who favor some safe and legal local access to medical cannabis the opportunity to achieve that goal without having to vote for Measure Z.

Forecasting the high likelihood the city of Vista was to permit one or more types of cannabis businesses to operate within the city through either Measure’s Z or BB’s success, Measure AA was written with the intention of creating a taxing structure for those potential cannabis businesses. As always, with any emergent opportunity to take from the people, the Tax-Man wants his piece. One can only wonder where those taxes will truly be going, as the Measure says, verbatim, “the Cannabis Business Tax would be a general tax enacted solely for general governmental purposes Of the City and not for specific purposes,” as listed here.  Measure AA would tax cannabis between 3.5 percent for testing and up to 12 percent in retail stores. This would ultimately help offset any inevitable costs and other impacts newly legalized cannabis businesses will impose on the city.

So what were the results?? 2 of the 3 passed, and one failed, but not by a lot:

Measure Z: PASSED at 53.8%

This initiative, sponsored by the cannabis industry, is expected to make Vista the retail cannabis capital of North County.

The City of Vista is currently preparing for the implementation of Measure Z and will be asked to approve an implementation calendar for the Measure Z milestones at the City Council meeting on December 11. The agenda report can be found here.   

Measure AA: PASSED at 52.6%

In response to the legalization of retail sales in Vista through Measure Z,the passage of Measure AA authorizes the City of Vista to tax cannabis businesses with initial rates of $14 per square foot; up to 8% on manufacturing and distribution; up to 10% on medicinal retail; up to 12% on adult-use retail; and up to 3.5% on testing.

Measure BB: Failed at 53.6%

This means Vista will NOT be allowing up to 3 delivery-only medical retailers and two testing facilities in the city. This is likely not the end of this effort, and with time, should prove to pass. With a margin as small as that, we remain optimistic for future votes on this matter. Overall, this isn’t a huge loss when compared to the impact passing Measure Z will have on the cannabis industry in Vista.

A huge victory for Vista’s retail cannabis community.  It will be interesting to see how it all takes shape!

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