Though illegal within the city, several cannabis dispensaries operate openly in Fullerton. Most of these businesses are easily searchable online, and some are located only a few miles from City Hall.
Fullerton Exotics, an unlicensed dispensary that operated at 922 Williamson Avenue since at least November of 2021, was declared a public nuisance by the city, had its power cut, and was declared unsafe for occupancy. Despite this, it was soon operating just a few miles away, at 110 Ash Avenue. This is a common evasive tactic used by unlicensed dispensaries.
“This happens over and over again. it seems like we're just playing whack-a-mole, and to some degree we are,” said Mayor Fred Jung of Fullerton.
Cannabis shops are a significant source of tax revenue for nearly 190 California cities, according to state regulators, but Fullerton is reluctant to legalize and regulate them. Last year, Santa Ana earned $20 million from cannabis-related taxes. Meanwhile, Fullerton is expecting a deficit of $5 million in the 2022-2023 fiscal year and is considering handing over its city fire department, founded in 1908, to the county to cut costs.
Fullerton prohibited dispensaries within the city following the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016, which made recreational cannabis legal statewide. In November 2020, the city adopted an ordinance that would allow several dispensaries to open, but rescinded it in February 2021 due to resident complaints.
“I am just concerned we are trying to go along with what other people, other cities are doing, and Fullerton’s a very unique city, I’d like to keep it that way,” said Maureen Flynn-Becerra, who said she taught the anti-drug DARE program for the Fullerton Police Department. “What would we lose as a city, as families, as a community, by supporting an ordinance like this?”