Dispensaries and other marijuana-related businesses will be allowed in unincorporated Riverside County after the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Oct. 23 approved a long-awaited regulatory framework for cannabis commerce.
The 3-2 vote came after a three-hour public hearing in which more than 30 speakers shared their views on whether and how the county should allow the marijuana industry to operate in areas of the county not controlled by a city.
Though Proposition 64’s passage in 2016 made it legal in California for adults to use cannabis recreationally, the law also gives cities and counties the authority to regulate or ban most other marijuana activities within their borders.
The county has long banned cannabis cultivation in unincorporated communities such as Anza and Idyllwild, with a narrow exemption for medical marijuana users. That said, illegal grows are common and disrupt some residents’ peace of mind with lingering odors, glaring overhead lights and heavily armed guards.
While residents are looking for relief, cannabis entrepreneurs want a clear and consistent regulatory framework. Allowing marijuana, they said, would boost the local economy and help mom-and-pop ventures, like “bud and breakfast” inns, that want to make an honest living.
County officials, who got Planning Commission input on the ordinance, sought a balance between economic and quality-of-life concerns. The ordinance bans outdoor grows and requires strict security, odor control and property setbacks, among other rules, with Temecula Valley Wine Country off-limits to commercial marijuana.
Money raised from development agreements with licensed businesses would pay for enforcement efforts against illegal operators.
Speakers at the public hearing included residents of unincorporated areas who favored the current ban. Other speakers were marijuana entrepreneurs who criticized the proposed rules as too restrictive or too complex.
Supervisors Marion Ashley and John Tavaglione voted against the ordinance, with supervisors Kevin Jeffries, Chuck Washington, and V. Manuel Perez voting yes.
Colorado, Ashley said, has seen a host of problems stemming from legal marijuana. “I don’t want Riverside County to be like Colorado,” he said.
Tavaglione said he speaks regularly with friends from Colorado and Oregon – another state where recreational marijuana is legal – who “share with me the nightmare that is taking place in those states.”
“I don’t think by approving something like this, we’re going to take Riverside County in the direction that I personally would like to see it go,” Tavaglione said.
Those who think the ordinance rules are heavy-handed have a point, Jeffries said.
“It’s our first time at it,” he said. “Government is very good at taxes and regulations and we will be back … we’ve got to start someplace.”