County to update cannabis laws

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Shops currently still illegal in unincorporated areas

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to change its ordinances regarding the legality of pot, marijuana or cannabis. The immediate changes will be consistent with Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, approved last November.

However, these changes are intended to “… maintain the status quo and avoid the state issuing licenses for cannabis businesses and cannabis activities in the unincorporated areas.”

The key event to the legalization of these activities in the Riverside County will be a vote in November 2018 on imposing a tax on marijuana or cannabis.

Following its March 21 workshop, the board’s Cannabis ad hoc committee, composed of Supervisors Chuck Washington (District 3) and Kevin Jeffries (District 1), has drafted a plan to modify existing ordinances and to impose new taxes in order to change the regulatory environment in the county for marijuana or cannabis businesses.

But the board has stressed and is amending existing ordinances to clarify that any marijuana business — medical or adult-use — continues to be prohibited throughout the unincorporated areas of Riverside County.

The report to the board stated, “… no permit of any type shall be issued for cannabis businesses or cannabis activities until the county adopts a comprehensive regulatory framework for medical and adult-use cannabis.”

The board and staff will begin working on comprehensive cannabis regulatory policies. But Tuesday, the board amended four ordinances —348, 866, 925, and 928 — to strengthen and clarify the current prohibition of cannabis business.

On Aug. 2, the County Planning Commission approved the changes to Ordinance 348 regarding the current prohibition of cannabis business or activity within any county land-use zone.

The changes will also clarify that cultivation of six plants inside a private residence or a secure fully enclosed structure of the private residence is now permitted.

The ad hoc committee report and staff report for the board meeting emphasized that all the recent state legislation — including Senate Bill 94, the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, enacted and signed this June — clearly recognizes and does not limit the county’s authority to adopt and enforce local ordinances to regulate cannabis businesses.

Regulating state licensed cannabis business is within the scope of this legislation and extends to a county’s right to ban cannabis activity.

The ad hoc committee felt that authorizing the legal cannabis businesses could help reduce the illegal market

The board did direct county staff drafting the new ordinances to reach out to communities through the use of public meetings to solicit the public’s thoughts about this issue.

Some of the issues to be addressed include the careful location of these businesses away from schools, parks and neighborhoods.

Approval of the tax measure will be the critical step in the future legality of cannabis businesses in the county. All county voters, not just in the unincorporated areas, will vote on the tax measure.

The board has not yet determined the level or amount of the tax. One important reason for the tax revenue is to provide funding for any additional staff necessary to enforce and to over see these activities.

The ad hoc committee emphasized the importance of the tax measure’s approval with this statement to its board colleagues, “If the tax initiative fails, it is recommended that any ordinances or ordinance amendments establishing a comprehensive regulatory framework to permit cannabis businesses and cannabis activities not be enacted.

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