County wants input on cannabis businesses

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The legality, treatment and perception of marijuana or cannabis in California is changing. First medical marijuana became legal and in November 2016 state voters approved Proposition 64, which made recreational marijuana legal after Jan. 1. 2018, subject to county ordinances.

Riverside County began a review and evaluation of its cannabis ordinances last spring. In August, it amended some to bring into compliance with the recent state laws, but a broader and full scale review continues.

An official Riverside County website has been created on the county’s Planning Department website. At http://planning.rctlma.org/Home/Cannabis.aspx, you can submit your general views about cannabis and its regulation. To be included in a report to the Board of Supervisors, comments should be submitted no later than Jan. 7, 2018.

According to Ray Smith, Riverside County’s public information officer, a report will not be ready until early 2018. Any staff level public meetings will be announced so that interested constituents may attend. None are planned yet

You can also provide input through a community input worksheet (http://planning.rctlma.org/Portals/0/Cannabis/Community%20input%20Worksheet%20Packet.pdf?ver=2017-10-12-205231-290 ).

Citizens must keep in mind that the county regulates only the use and marketing of cannabis in the unincorporated areas, which would include Idyllwild and other Hill communities. Cities, such as Hemet, Palm Desert and Temecula set their own rules for use and distribution of cannabis.

The county staff is seeking opinions and comments on the following five topics:

  • Where cannabis businesses should locate
  • Cannabis taxation and revenue
  • Youth access and exposure to cannabis
  • Personal cannabis cultivation
  • Equity and economic development

At this point, the staff is not planning any organized public meetings as they review and development recommendations for new or revised ordinances. When the Board of Supervisors places these on its agenda, the public will have an opportunity to speak.

The county stressed that responses to the worksheet will remain private. “People’s names will not be associated with any particular written comment,” is on the worksheet background.

When considering where cannabis businesses should or may locate, the worksheet indicates that the state will issue licenses for the following types of cannabis businesses: cultivators, manufacturers, distributors, micro-businesses, nursery, testing laboratories and retailers.

State law already sets some restrictions on locations, such as 600 feet from schools, day cares and youth centers. But the county is seeking comments and thoughts on whether further restrictions should be applied in Riverside County such as residential areas. Also what zones would be most appropriate for testing labs or manufacturers or distributors?

On taxation, the county is asking whether to impose taxes to raise revenue or discourage consumptions. In addition, there are questions about how to use this revenue from cannabis sources and whether medical and recreational cannabis should be treated differently.

Regarding personal consumption, the county asks about outdoor personal cultivation and proximity to public areas such as schools, parks and libraries.

The final questions address the role of the county to provide economic help to develop the cannabis business.

Besides the worksheet, the county’s website hosts a variety of information about cannabis, its use and legality.

There is a page of frequently asked questions, among these is one about the current legality of cannabis businesses in the unincorporated areas. The response states, “cannabis businesses are banned in all unincorporated areas of Riverside County. This includes cultivating, manufacturing, processing, storing, testing, labeling, distributing, delivering, or selling medical or adult-use cannabis and cannabis products. This ban will remain in place until the county adopts a comprehensive regulatory framework for cannabis businesses and cannabis activities. Each of the county’s 28 incorporated cities will set its own rules for cannabis businesses.”

Until the county approves any ordinance changes, concerned residents may “report cannabis businesses operating illegally in the county’s unincorporated areas”  to the Riverside County Code Enforcement Department at 951-955-2004 or email to code@rivco.org.

The final page provides access to documents and reports such as the county ordinances regulating cannabis and board agenda items on this matter.

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  1. The state requirement is very strict, you need to provide bonding and insurance and oversight. Let any and all cultivation allowed in unincorporated areas and monitor and tax. This would be a financial boom to Riverside County. Keep it away from the people in the areas zoned for agricultural.

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