Southern California

Pico Rivera extends recreational marijuana ban again in wake of City Hall departures

Stymied by a short-staffed City Hall, the Pico Rivera City Council for a third time is “kicking the can” on tackling recreational marijuana and voted to extend a temporary ban on dispensaries.

The cultivation and sale of recreational marijuana will continue to be banned in Pico Rivera for another year after the unanimous vote Tuesday.

The council first passed a 45-day ban last November, about 1 1/2 months before pot shops around the state officially became legal. That ordinance gave the council the option of extending the moratorium for up to two years.

The idea at the time was that the ban would give city officials time to study health and economic effects of marijuana and craft a regulatory regime that best fits Pico Rivera. But that hasn’t happened yet, a frustration for Councilman Gregory Salcido.

“We can’t keep kicking the can on these serious issues,” he said.

There’s still a lot left to look at, acting City Manager Arlene Salazar wrote in a report.

“The city has not fully yet studied the full range of potential health, safety and welfare impacts of recreational marijuana on local residents, businesses, and the community, and the city has not yet made a final determination as to the locations, zoning districts or development standards that should be applied to nonmedical marijuana uses to preserve such interests, or whether a complete ban on such uses is necessary,” she wrote.

City officials have made some research progress on the matter, including reviewing the policies of nearby cities and working with the city attorney’s office.

But Mayor Gustavo Camacho signaled marijuana isn’t at the top priority given the state of City Hall’s top ranks. “Right now we have a limited staff, as we all know,” he said.

Salazar was tapped by the council last week to serve temporarily in the city’s top position after the Oct. 2 departure of another interim city manager, James Enriquez.

Enriquez was named about six months ago to that position after the departure of former city manager René Bobadilla. Meanwhile, two other high-ranking city officials, assistant city manager Ben Cardenas and community development manager Michael Garcia, resigned earlier this summer and their positions remain vacant.