The City of Coachella is changing how it regulates some of its cannabis businesses. The changes adopted by the city council last week will affect manufacturing, testing, distribution and cultivation businesses, but not retail establishments.
Rules adopted in 2016 required commercial cannabis businesses to have at least five acres to operate. But Development Services Director Gabriel Perez said many new applicants have asked for exemptions to that requirement.
Additionally, commercial cannabis businesses have been required obtain a conditional use permit, even though they can only operate in the city’s industrial zone areas. That, Perez said, has resulted in excessive paperwork.
“None of those standards made sense to staff at this time, because we just had a lot of people that were applying for variances of those standards,” Perez explained to The Desert Sun. “So, it doesn’t make sense for us to keep having to approve variances (because) if we’re approving them, we’re basically saying we are okay with the exceptions.”
Both the five-acre requirement and the conditional use permit requirement were lifted on a 3-0 vote from city council. Mayor Steven Hernandez and Councilmembers Neftali Galarza and Denise Delgado voted yes. Mayor Pro Tem Josephine Gonzalez and Councilmember Megan Beaman Jacinto were not present.
Eliminating the zoning change requirement for commercial cannabis activity also means that those businesses will only have to be approved by the Coachella Planning Commission, and no longer by city council.
“That was a big deal and since there is not a limitation on the number of commercial cannabis businesses, there could be a lot of different businesses that benefit,” Perez said.