West Covina leaders — although divided — are inching toward allowing commercial cultivation of marijuana in the Los Angeles County city.
The City Council on Tuesday voted 3-2, directing staff to develop an ordinance to allow cultivation and laboratory testing of marijuana and options for how to tax the pot-related businesses. Councilmen James Toma and Tony Wu were opposed.
“Whether people like it or not, it’s here and we need to deal with it in a constructive way,” Mayor Pro Tem Mike Spence said. “Let’s develop something that works for West Covina.”
The discussion came as several other cities in the San Gabriel Valley, including El Monte and Baldwin Park, adopted ordinances to allow commercial cultivation of marijuana.
Planning Director Jeff Anderson said staff would review other cities’ ordinances when devising one for West Covina.
Such an ordinance would likely involve requiring a conditional use permit for cultivation in the city’s manufacturing areas as well as a separate business license that would impose regulations on how cultivation businesses would operate, Anderson said. City staff will also look at creating a separate tax for such businesses, a move that two-thirds of voters would need to approve in an election.
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West Covina currently prohibits medical marijuana dispensaries and all cultivation of marijuana. With last year’s passage of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in California, city officials have been discussing whether to reverse the ban and develop regulations.
Although the Planning Commission recommended that the council continue to prohibit dispensaries and the commercial cultivation of marijuana earlier this year, the council opted in May to further study the issue.
Some residents and council members remain hesitant about allowing marijuana-related businesses to operate in the city when federal law does not allow it.
“Is the city really so desperate to utilize all this commercial cultivation?” asked Wu, who said he is OK with the personal, private use of cannabis but was concerned about the city benefiting off an industry still outlawed by the federal government. “What is the consequence? Maybe you can make some money, but we’re going to lose much, much, much more.”
It’s unclear how much revenue the businesses could generate, but with pension costs rising, the city could use the money, some say.
“I think this is one of the best things you guys can do,” resident Brian Cosner said.
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