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Vista Begins Accepting Applications For Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

People line up inside a building at the Vista Civic Center to apply for medic...

Photo by Matt Hoffman

Above: People line up inside a building at the Vista Civic Center to apply for medical marijuana dispensaries, Jan. 22, 2019.

People lined up at the Vista Civic Center Tuesday for a special kind of lottery. This raffle was not for cash, but for processing medical marijuana dispensary applications.

Measure Z, which passed last November, allows up to 11 dispensaries within the city. Vista officials used a lottery system to determine which applications will be reviewed first.

"I prefer merit-based applications. That way the best applicants get selected ... I think lotteries for cities aren’t ideal because they lead to potentially unqualified applicants getting in," said Elliot Lewis, who is hoping to open a dispensary called Frank Zimmerman Collective. "That being said, they’re really lot of fun. It’s a lot of action, exciting."

Reported by Roland Lizarondo

Vista used numbered ping pong balls to randomly determine which applications would be processed first. Lewis was one of the lucky ones. He was picked eighth — meaning if his application checks out then he will be able to open a dispensary.

"Hopefully we did everything right — we checked the boxes — we think we did, but you never know," Lewis said.

However, here was some confusion about the applications process. For the last few days people have lined up outside the Vista Civic Center, believing the city would rank applications on a first-come-first-serve basis instead of holding a lottery.

"The way the initiative was written was to eliminate the chance of a lottery," said Rodney Allen, who hopes to open a dispensary called The Laughing Leaf. "So we were a little surprised when there was one."

RELATED: High Hopes For Legal Marijuana Businesses In Chula Vista

Allen was one of the people who thought first in line meant first application processed. He was picked last in the lottery Tuesday.

"Well I’m not happy with it of course," Allen said. "You can’t blame them (the city of Vista). They have a right to their own interpretation. They made their own interpretation and that’s where we’re at. I don’t have any ill will. I’m just going to do what I have to do."

Allen said that could include taking legal action. In total Vista accepted 29 applications during the lottery Tuesday.

The application process was not cheap, Allen said.

"The submission is like $9,300 and they took $100,000 as like a deposit or something, so it was not a small entry fee," he said.

The city will keep collecting dispensary applications until next week before starting to vet them.

Separately, the city of Chula Vista last week accepted applications for recreational marijuana businesses. A city spokeswoman said it received 96 applications.

After a citizens' initiative passed last November, the city of Vista began accepting applications Tuesday for up to 11 medical marijuana storefronts.

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