Lake Forest is set to discuss legalizing marijuana testing labs

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Lake Forest is the latest Orange County city to consider legalizing some commercial cannabis activities.

The Planning Commission is set to review a proposal to allow up to four marijuana testing labs on Aug. 8. The labs would be limited to the city’s industrial zone.

The proposed ordinance, which would also include a permitting process and regulations for operations, would then go to the City Council for a vote.

If the council is interested, Lake Forest would be the fifth city in the county, and the only south of Irvine, to allow any type of cannabis activity other than personal cultivation and recreational use, which is mandated by state law.

Lake Forest spokesman Jonathan Volzke said the city’s staffers began drafting the ordinance after City Hall was approached by a business owner in the city who wants to expand into testing cannabis.

Staff members wants to know what the Planning Commission and the City Council think of having such labs in Lake Forest, Volzke said. “It’s just staff being responsive to the business community.”

The city published a legal notice announcing the vote last week, but staffers are still working to finalize the wording for a proposed ordinance, Volzke said.

The four cities in Orange County – Santa Ana, Irvine, Costa Mesa and La Habra – allow some cannabis-related business activities. Santa Ana is the only city that permits dispensaries. The other cities are mostly allowing testing labs and distribution warehouses. 

As for how the council members would vote, Councilman Dwight Robinson said he will need to look at the specific ordinance, but won’t likely support it, given that cannabis remains illegal under federal law.

“In general, I haven’t been supportive of anything cannabis-related as long as it’s on a federal banned list,” he said. “I haven’t been supportive of doing anything that may preempt the federal law in any way.”

Councilwoman Leah Basile said she’s undecided. She’s waiting to hear community feedback, she said.