By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent
The Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit Jan. 23 for a cannabidiol (CBD) product store at the former Main Beach Fine Art Gallery at 206 North Coast Highway, which would be the first of its kind in Laguna Beach.
Lagona Apothecary will be restricted to selling bath bombs, soaps, skin care products, gel capsules, and dropper bottles containing the industrial hemp-derived oil, which does not contain the psychoactive traits of marijuana. However, some residents who opposed Measure KK, a 2016 ballot initiative to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Laguna Beach, also came out in opposition to the new CBD store partly because the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t verify the efficacy of CBD products.
Patrick Murphy, of Cypress, a Marine Corps veteran and retired aerospace engineer, said he was motivated to open a CBD store after using similar products to treat his arthritis.
“I believe there is some magic here in Laguna Beach,” Murphy said. “I had been in that art gallery many times in the past and looked out those windows. To tell you the truth, I never thought I’d be here but I’m happy to be here.”
Laguna Beach resident Jon Conk said the Planning Commission should respect the will of the nearly 71 percent of voters who opposed medical marijuana dispensaries in town.
“The residents of Laguna Beach have made it crystal clear that we don’t want marijuana products of any kind sold here,” Conk said. “CBD is a marijuana product.”
Even though he’s opposed to a CBD storefront in Laguna Beach, Conk said he’s not opposed to using cannabis products to treat legitimate medical conditions if prescribed by a doctor with proper safeguards.
Although federal law allows CBD edibles to be sold for human and animal consumption, the State Department of Public Health has ruled that they are still illegal. If state law changes, the store would then be permitted to sell CBD-infused water, protein powder, chocolate, and pet treats.
Planning Commissioner Susan McLintock Whitin asked city staff whether there was any conflict with local, state, or federal laws identified by the City Attorney, who shared no objections to the application. She also pointed out that the Planning Commission has the right to reexamine and revoke the conditional use permit if its terms aren’t followed.
“That’s my insurance plan to address the concerns of all of us frankly,” Whitin said. “From my reading, I know there is literature out there that addresses the childhood epilepsy and arthritis, but I also know there is literature that calls it snake oil.”
Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson cast the only vote against the CBD store because she said she didn’t have enough objective evidence that CBD offers a medical remedy for users.
“I’m more interested in what the community said in Measure KK,” she said.
Considering that there are marijuana delivery services that already serve Laguna Beach residents, Planning Commissioner Ken Sadler said Lagona Apothecary will attract a different customer looking for real medical benefits, and if they’re unsatisfied with the product, they’ll take their business elsewhere.
“If people want to get high, they are going to go to a marijuana dispensary,” Sadler said. “The idea that CBD is going to be a slippery slope to a medical dispensary just doesn’t make sense.”
Opponents have 14 days to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision to the City Council.