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H.B. rejects 3 pot dispensaries' appeals for licenses

Huntington Beach planning commissioners have denied appeals by three marijuana dispensaries seeking approval to operate in the city.

Med-Aid HB, Surf City Collective and HBCG had applied for business licenses and certificates of occupancy but were denied June 26 by the city's finance and planning and building departments. The dispensaries appealed to the Planning Commission, which unanimously rejected the appeals Tuesday night.

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The City Council in May had approved a clarification to the city's regulation on marijuana dispensaries intended to make it clear that they are illegal in Huntington Beach, regardless of where they are set up.

Attorneys Cristian Peirano and Sean Bozarth, who represented the dispensaries during the Planning Commission meeting, said their clients dispense marijuana for medicinal purposes and did not receive due process in attaining a business license because they were labeled illegal operations.

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Bozarth argued that a dispensary is considered a retail business and is not illegal.

California has allowed the use of medical marijuana since 1996, though its recreational use has not been legalized.

In 2014, the federal government ended its prohibition on medical marijuana. Colorado, Washington state and Washington, D.C., have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

"The city of Huntington Beach, by denying the business license, is turning down … the taxes from the retail sales," Bozarth said.

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But Planning Commission Chairman Dan Kalmick said city law is clear that marijuana dispensaries are illegal in town.

In 2005, Huntington Beach allowed dispensaries in industrial-zoned areas. However, in 2007, the City Council barred them, citing safety concerns.

Before the council's clarification this year, Police Chief Robert Handy said he had been told that the city's law on the subject was unclear.

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