Previously rejected cannabis dispensary gets Riverside County’s OK

A change to a rule requiring cannabis dispensaries in unincorporated Riverside County to be at least 1,000 feet apart has paved the way for a second dispensary to set up shop in Highgrove.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Nov. 17, unanimously approved Excel Riverside’s permit. In May, a divided board rejected Excel’s application.

At issue in May was a rule setting a 1,000-foot buffer between dispensaries. Located at Iowa Avenue and Center Street near Riverside, Excel would be about 300 feet from The Artist Tree, which in December 2019 became the first dispensary to get a permit from Riverside County.

To approve Excel’s permit, supervisors would have had to remove the buffer. That’s something supervisors Kevin Jeffries and Chuck Washington were unwilling to do, fearing it could open the door for dispensaries to cluster and cause problems for unincorporated communities.

Supervisor Karen Spiegel, whose district includes Highgrove, reluctantly sided with Jeffries and Washington in denying Excel a permit.

Excel re-submitted its application. This time, its proposal hinged on a tweak to the buffer rule. Instead of removing the buffer, the board was asked to create an exemption for dispensaries located within half a mile of a “designated freeway,” defined as the 10, 15, or 215 as well as the 60 and 91 freeways.

Excel is less than half a mile from the 215 Freeway.

The board’s Nov. 17 meeting saw a number of people who supported Excel’s application speak.

Excel’s attorney, Lesa Slaughter, told the board that “capping” retail licenses in a particular area “is actually the most effective way to be able to regulate and control (dispensaries).”

Licensed cannabis retailers “are the first people to come around” and report illegal dispensaries, Slaughter said.

Spiegel noted that Excel’s application scored the second-highest among the applicants who sought a retail cannabis permit.

“I was trying to find a way to help (Excel) through the process and make it where it would not affect the other (supervisorial) districts,” she said.

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