People who don’t want commercial indoor cultivation, manufacturing, testing and delivery of marijuana products in Montebello on Wednesday filed the paperwork for an initiative that would ban all those uses as well as retail dispensaries, which never were allowed in the city.
If successful, the measure would overrule recent City Council action to allow some types of marijuana businesses.
The backers of the would-be measure have six months to collect about 3,000 signatures once City Attorney Arnold Alvarez Glasman has prepared a title and summary of their measure. He has 15 days to do so.
“We don’t want marijuana businesses in our community,” said anti-marijuana activist Maribel Briseno, who signed the paper work. “We’ve been asking them to keep the ban and this is one way of exercising our rights.”
Marijuana opponents have cited concerns about public safety and fears the businesses will be too close to homes.
In Feburary, the City Council voted 3-2 to amend city law to allow those marijuana businesses to operate in the city, but only in industrial areas south of Olympic Boulevard. Then-mayor Vanessa Delgado — she recently resigned to take her state Senate seat — Councilmen Art Barajas and Jack Hadjinian voted in favor, while council members Bill Molinari and Vivian Romero opposed the measure.
The council expanded on that decision, again voting 3-2, to add business-to-business distribution and “delivery-only retailers” as legal uses in the city.
Pot proponents have said the city needs the money that would flow from marijuana businesses paying a development fee to help reduce a structural deficit that could be as high as as $2.7 million.
Barajas said in a Wednesday telephone interview he was not aware of the proposed measure. He declined to comment further.
Romero acknowledged the city has financial problems, but she believes people should get a chance to vote, in part because many issues related to the council’s approvals aren’t resolved to her satisfaction — key of which is how much it would cost to regulate the businesses.
“I support bringing it forward to the constituents to consider and make their determination,” she said. “Let’s see what the people decide.”
Hadjinian and Molinari didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.
So far, 38 would-be businesses have applied to open in Montebello, with each applicant paying $900 for the first phase of the first round of reviews.
Should the measure become law, the city could have to refund any fees charged the applicants, said Dale Gieringer, director of the California chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws. And the applicants might not look too kindly on the turn of events.
“I think that might be a cause for action,” Gieringer said. “There was a lawsuit in Calaveras County where something similar occurred.”
Gieringer also said he’s surprised by the measure, pointing out that Montebello voters had supported Proposition 64, the 2016 state measure that legalized the use of marijuana.
“I think they’re swimming against the tide,” Gieringer said. “All the evidence shows that licensed cannabis (businesses) work perfectly well. They don’t pose any threat to the community. Nothing bad seems to come out of it.”