Southern California

Hemet may not ask voters to decide on marijuana, but a citizen’s measure will

Hemet City Council members are now unsure if they will put an initiative on the November ballot that would allow some cannabis businesses.

They are pondering asking voters if they want to lift the ban on such businesses in an effort to counteract a citizen-created initiative that has already qualified for the ballot, but expressed concerns Tuesday night, July 24, about whether the city could handle the consequences that come with pot-related businesses.

“From a public safety standpoint, we are ill-equipped with the passage of any ordinance,” City Manager Allen Parker said.

The city lacks enough police or code enforcement officers to patrol and inspect pot businesses, Parker said.

A final decision will be made during a special meeting Tuesday, Aug. 7 — three days before initiatives must go to the county’s registrar of voters to be placed on the November ballot.

“I’m not quite sure we have enough information on the impact (the initiative) will have on the city,” Councilwoman Bonnie Wright said. “It’s really critical that we tread lightly so we don’t get stuck in a hole we can’t get out of.”

The measure the council was expected to consider Tuesday would have asked voters to allow medical cannabis dispensaries, cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and testing.

The citizen measure would allow non-retail cannabis businesses in manufacturing zones without a city-issued license.

The city initiative was left a bit vague because of a compressed timeframe to create it.

“I look at this proposed ballot measure and I don’t like it,” Councilwoman Linda Krupa said. “It needs to be something that’s controllable, that’s enforceable.”

Parker said if the city does not put an ordinance on the ballot and the citizen initiative passes, it’s likely the city would sue, alleging that the proposition would create a monopoly.

The council was told it would have few options to campaign against the citizen’s inititive.

Assistant City Attorney Erica Vega said the council could pass a resolution against the proposal and that council members could speak against it on their own time, but no taxpayer money can be used to campaign.

“You can educate but not advocate,” Vega said.