Business · Merced

Merced warms to cannabis dispensaries, expands operating hour and loosens zoning

The Merced City Council unanimously approved changes to cannabis dispensary zoning requirements on Monday as well as the merit-based selection criteria for another dispensary, set to be the city’s fifth.

Monday’s most notable action affected the working hours of retail dispensaries.

Since the rules were first drawn up in 2017, dispensaries had a set closing time of 9 p.m.

Now, cannabis retailers are allowed to remain open until 10 p.m.

Councilman Fernando Echevarria suggested that dispensaries should be able to stay open until 2 a.m. to mirror the operational hours of bars.

While the rest of the council was open to that discussion, the other councilmembers decided to see how the extra hour of operation works over the next year before revisiting the idea. 

For the new dispensary that will be up for grabs soon, the council amended the rules to create a buffer zone of 1,000 feet from a school or 600 fett from a daycare center, youth center, library or public park that is in existence at the time of the application.

As far as the selection criteria goes, the city council approved point changes that were put forth by the Planning Commission. 

Security measures will be worth up to a maximum of four points, one less than previous. Those measures include panic buttons, dye packets, bulletproof window film and motion sensing lighting, among other additions. 

The discretionary point pool that could be awarded by the committee for various “outstanding features, measures, or programs” has been decreased from a maximum of 15 points to 14. 

Applicants who are Merced County applicants will now receive two points instead of one, and residents of the City of Merced will now gain three points. 

The city expects to open the application period for the fifth dispensary in late November or early dispensary, which will be open until February of next year.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.