MONTEBELLO — The city took its first step Wednesday in allowing marijuana businesses to set up in Montebello, voting to change its rules to allow city workers to hand out licenses for grow houses, manufacturers and laboratories.
The City Council voted 4-1 to amend its business license ordinance to allow the manufacturing and research side of the industry, which was made legal in the state by voters last year. But dispensaries and distributors will remain banned in Montebello, as will open-air cultivation.
But the Planning Commission must still determine where in the city marijuana businesses would be allowed, as well as what rules they’d need to follow and what security they would need. The commission will meet Sept. 5 to consider a change to its zoning ordinance.
For the council members who voted for the rule change Wednesday, the decision came down to money.
“There is significant revenue,” said Councilman Jack Hadjinian. “You would be able to take a large license fee from these operators. It wouldn’t be able to tied to the success of their businesses. It would be a fixed fee. It could be an equivalent to an auto dealer.”
Hadjinian said the city needs the money and it’s becoming harder to attract commercial businesses.
He said most likely any marijuana businesses would be located only in the industrial areas of the city.
“More often than not, you won’t be able to see it or detect it,” he said.
However, that angered some residents — all of the city’s industrial zones are in south Montebello.
“Why does everybody dump everything that we don’t want in South Montebello?” asked Linda Nicklas, co-founder of Montebello Activists to Clean House 90640.
“What would you do if you had a building with this next door to where you live?” Nicklas asked. “You wouldn’t want it there.”
Some residents also said they were concerned marijuana businesses could attract crime.
“Will (these businesses) bring in enough money for extra police?” asked Tela Gregorian. “Bring in better businesses that won’t deal in cash.”
Councilman Art Barajas cautioned speakers at the meeting that the city still had much more to do before marijuana companies were legalized in the city.
“This is a baby step in the whole process has to come,” Barajas said. “We can’t sit here and say ‘no’ to everything.” Other residents welcomed opening the city to cannabis. Alex Baez said he wanted the council to go further and legalize dispensaries.
“(Near) Montebello, there are 14 places that sell cannabis and the city doesn’t benefit from them,” said Baez. “I hear we’re in need of money and this is a great opportunity.”
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