A proposed ordinance to regulate commercial cannabis activities in the unincorporated areas of Riverside County moved forward. The Planning Commission voted to send the proposed ordinance to the Board of Supervisors and to further examine the possibility of commercial cultivation within several rural land-use zones.

After its June meeting, the commission asked staff to review several questions. The principal issue, on which public comment was clearly divided, was whether to allow any commercial cultivation of cannabis in the Residential Agriculture (R-A), the Rural Residential (R-R) and the Controlled Development (W-2) zones.

The staff recommendation was to prohibit cultivation within any residential zone. Planning Assistant Director Charissa Leach told the commission, “This can cause compatibility issues with people living their lives there.”

Public speakers at the July 18 commission meeting were still divided on the issue. Many were glad and approved the staff recommendation, and others felt it would be very difficult to enforce.

“Home is a sacred place, a sanctuary,” said Commissioner Aaron Hake. “As we weigh the property rights of people advocating for this, we also have to listen to those who live in these communities.”

Some people asked the commission to look at how it has found ways to accommodate wineries and other activities in the county’s Wine County outside Temecula.

While commissioners were sympathetic to the differing views, they noted that the issues in the wine country have taken many years to solve and some are still contentious.

“Anza and Aguanga are the flashpoints. But it affects the entire county,” said Commission Chair Ruthanne Taylor Berger. “Once you say ‘OK,’ it’s ‘OK’ everywhere.”

Although she said she felt there might be some room for rural residential cultivation, the commission needed more information to make an educated decision.

After more discussion with Leach and county counsel, Commissioner Carl Shaffer recommended that the ordinance as staff submitted be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors. However, the commission would recommend that the board further explore more alternatives for these three zones.

The final vote was unanimous.

Prohibition of on-site consumption was another issue the commission felt might need to be modified later.

The issue may not go before the Board of Supervisors until fall, Leach told the commission. Also, later this year, the commission will need to review the ordinance after the state completes and approves its new regulations.

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