Southern California

Riverside permanently bans marijuana dispensaries, outdoor growing

No marijuana dispensaries, no commercial marijuana cultivation and no outdoor growing of marijuana will be allowed in Riverside, the City Council decided Tuesday, July 10.

The permanent ban is set to go into effect Aug. 24, about two weeks before the city’s temporary moratorium with similar prohibitions expires.

The 4-3 vote still allows people to use marijuana and to grow up to six plants indoors. California voters decided through Proposition 64, which went into effect in January, that those uses couldn’t be banned. Voters in six of Riverside’s seven wards voted in favor of the state law.

Riverside, though, now bans almost everything marijuana-related that state law allows it to ban. One exception is that cannabis testing will continue to be permitted.

Previously, the city allowed four marijuana plants outside and four more inside, if they were for personal use.

The council’s two-hour debate came after several workshops beginning more than a year ago. Most recently, in March, the council heard a report from Denver police officers and a delegation of Riverside officials who traveled to the Colorado capital to study the effects of marijuana legalization there.

Councilmen Mike Gardner, Andy Melendrez and Mike Soubirous voted against the ban Tuesday. They voted instead for a motion that would have allowed the city to create a new moratorium while it studied the effects of legalization in nearby cities such as Moreno Valley as well as Oregon and Washington. In March, the Moreno Valley City Council voted to approve 27 commercial pot enterprises — eight of them dispensaries.

Riverside City Councilman Chuck Conder, whose ward voted against Proposition 64, said the ban would allow residents who need medical marijuana to get it from other cities, while limiting the crime he associated with marijuana.

“The cost of doing this is not worth the soul of Riverside,” he said. “If they want to go somewhere else to do it, then go.”

In March, officials presented a grim picture of Denver’s legalization, with dramatically increased police staffing struggling to keep up with marijuana-related crime.

Several council members said Tuesday that the presentation seemed one-sided, with Melendrez calling it “scare tactics” and “reefer madness.”

Alex Chrystall, a resident of Conder’s ward, said the meeting left many unanswered questions.

“As an educator, I’m a fierce advocate of critical thinking, and I was alarmed in March by the lack of clear answers and questions,” she told the council Tuesday.

For instance, she said, if allowing marijuana caused such a disaster in Denver, why do voters there continue to support it?

“Why has the City continued its legalization for the past four years?” she said. “If it is such a bad deal, why aren’t the citizens calling for it to be undone?”

Perhaps, she said, it was because the $2.1 million spent on enforcement is dwarfed by the $22.7 million the city collects in marijuana taxes, on top of the state’s marijuana revenues.

Other residents, including Cindy Roth, president and CEO of the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce, said they supported the ban.

“We heard from many of our businesses about the problems they had in the strip centers next to them (when dispensaries opened),” she said. “Fights breaking out, paraphernalia left out, places where people thought there was a dispensary broken into.”

The city’s Planning Commission voted in May against the change. Planning commissioners said they were frustrated they were asked to vote without receiving the information given to the City Council, according to a summary by David Murray, the city’s principal planner.