Medical marijuana dispensaries generate small profit for city

Medical marijuana dispensaries generate small profit for city

Richmond’s medical marijuana dispensaries haven’t been a boon for the city but have generated a small profit, city officials said.

The Richmond Police Department’s regulatory unit, created in 2011, monitors dispensaries, Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) violations, taxi cabs, smoking complaints and towing. The unit spends roughly 40-percent of its resources on monitoring ABC violations and roughly 30-percent on regulating medical marijuana dispensaries.

Using that 30-percent figure, the Police Department estimated that since 2011 about $768,000 have been spent to oversee the city’s four dispensary permit holders. Only three of the four permit holders are currently operating dispensaries in the city.

During that same time period, the city has generated nearly $843,000 in income from fees paid by permit holders, meaning the city has banked a nearly $75,000 profit. The extra funds are added to the regulatory unit’s budget.

The city allows for up to six medical marijuana permits. Having all six dispensaries up and running would generate an additional $125,500 annually, but those funds would be negated by the cost of regulating all of them, a Richmond police captain said.

The long-running issue, of course, is whether Richmond needs six dispensaries and where to locate them amid zoning restrictions and neighborhood opposition.

According to a Contra Costa Times report from last year, the four Richmond dispensaries that were operating at that time accounted for the highest number of marijuana shops per capita in the Bay Area.

Currently, the dispensaries are zoned for major shopping malls and centers. Locating them elsewhere has been difficult.

At the Oct. 7 City Council meeting, Planning Director Richard Mitchell is expected to recommend where three more dispensaries could be located in the city in a relatively short period of time, and whether locating a dispensary in an industrial zone west of Interstate 580 is feasible.

Mitchell’s initial recommendation was that dispensaries should not be located in industrial zones because they should be accessible to patients.