Money from marijuana sales tax will fund special projects in Vista
Flora Verde Dispensary was the first legally licensed medical marijuana dispensary in Vista.
The dispensary was getting established just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Owner Justin Christman thought the stay at home orders would put them out of business.
He was wrong.
“All of a sudden people are stuck in their homes. They need a lot of release and therapeutic medicine. We had a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, a lot of depression that people were battling,” he said. “So they came to us for their holistic alternative and sales started to spike.”
His dispensary wasn't the only one thriving. In the last fiscal year, the city of Vista reported $5.1 million in revenue from the cannabis sales tax.
In April, the City Council decided that $4 million would go to the general fund. Any money left over would be used to fund special projects.
So now, the city has $1.1 million to spend on youth scholarships, a new sheriff's deputy, park maintenance, and undercover operations to stop shops from selling marijuana to minors.
Its spending plans include:
- Cannabis decoy and enforcement operations: $20,000
- Youth cannabis prevention and early intervention: $100,000
- Youth scholarship program: $140,000
- Increased lighting in neighborhoods: $270,000
- Park restroom maintenance: $31,000
- New Sheriff's deputy: $275,000
- Park Director Ranges (2): $277,000
Nannette Stamm with the North Coastal Prevention Coalition said the city hasn't done
any undercover operations this year.
“Making sure that businesses are obeying the laws we set around youth access,” she said. “Best practice is to do decoy operations to see if businesses will sell to minors when they shouldn't be selling to minors. It's really what we've learned in the past.”
Christman said he welcomes the undercover operations to hold all dispensaries accountable.
“Which is a very valid concern that we all share,” he said. “I am a father of two daughters, my business partner has five children. It is something we believe, children under the age of 18 should not consume cannabis as your brain is still developing.”
Marijuana sales expanded to recreational use in Vista this year. Christman is hopeful sales will increase and more revenue can go toward city projects.
“The extra tax revenue which now helps us add sheriff's (deputies) to the streets, ambulances to the street, increasing safety,” he said.