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Encinitas receives 200+ applications from cannabis business hopefuls

Encinitas forecasted that 25 cannabis businesses would seek to enter a city lottery allowing them to set up shop in town. Instead, it got 207 applications.

In order to review them all and decide who will be allowed to enter the lottery for the four allowable retail sales licenses, the city will drastically increase its payment to the consulting company reviewing the applications, the City Council unanimously decided Wednesday.

The council previously agreed to pay HdL Companies $98,650 for handling the cannabis business review process and helping the city create a cannabis sales tax. On Wednesday, the council increased that contract by $470,250, bringing the total contract to $568,900.

The increase will be “entirely offset” by the $1.3 million in cannabis business application fee revenue the city has received this fiscal year, a city staff report stresses.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Councilmember Joe Mosca mentioned that some people appear to have submitted multiple applications for cannabis retail sales licenses and asked whether the city-hired consultants had to review all of the applications, or whether some could be eliminated.

“To me, this is not a settled issue yet,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear responded, saying this will be something for the newly hired city attorney to consider.

In 2020, the city’s voters approved Measure H — a citizens’ initiative that allows cannabis retail sales, cultivation, manufacturing and distribution businesses to open in Encinitas, provided they meet certain regulations.

In order to participate in the lottery for the four retail licenses, prospective applicants needed to pay an initial $6,528 city registration fee. That fee covers the cost of reviewing and ranking the applications. Applicants who gain a high ranking in the review process are then entered into the lottery.

Applications were accepted from mid-January until Feb. 18, and now they will undergo the review process. The date for the lottery has not yet been set, the city’s web site indicates. A list of the applications the city has received can be found at: https://encinitasca.gov/Government/Departments/Development-Services/Planning-Division/Policy-Planning/Cannabis-Ordinance-Measure-H

Most of the applicants are proposing to use retail sites on Coast Highway, though there are some proposed for Leucadia Boulevard, El Camino Real and Second Street.

Wednesday meeting concluded with a series of announcements.

Mosca, who has served almost six years on the council and two years on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, formally declared that he will not be seeking re-election this fall. Saying, he’s “enjoyed every moment” on his journey in city politics, Mosca said he made the decision after consulting with his family.

After 23 years, Deputy City Clerk Claudia Bingham is retiring and her last day is Thursday, the city clerk announced.

One new face will be Tarquin Preziosi, whom the council hired Wednesday as the city’s next attorney. Encinitas has been contracting the job out on an interim basis since fall 2019 when the last city attorney resigned.

Under the new city attorney contract, Encinitas will pay $20,000 a month for Preziosi’s general legal services, and if special services are required, the rate would be $250 per hour for the first 18 months of the contract. Any special service work would require prior council approval.