Marijuana sales could be legal in Moreno Valley — and without city control over where — sooner than expected after City Council members failed to agree Tuesdayon how long to keep a temporary ban in place.
If nothing changes, commercial cannabis sales could start in January in most parts of the city as statewide recreational sales begin.
Even as the council could not agree on extending the ban, it voted 3-2 to create a permitting process to allow the full range of commercial cannabis activities permitted under Prop. 64 — cultivation, sales, testing and manufacturing.[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-section” curated_ids=””]This was supposed to be the first of a two-part regulatory system along with a second ordinance establishing land-use regulations for where they could operate, according to the city staff report.
The land-use ordinance process was expected to take five to nine months due to public hearings before the Planning Commission and council and an environmental review that needs to take place, Community Development Director Allen Brock told the council.
City Attorney Martin Koczanowicz had recommended the council keep in place a temporary ban on commercial cannabis sales for a year or until those rules are adopted — whichever came first.
Without the ban, which expires Tuesday, Oct. 31 and needed four-fifths approval to be extended, the city would not have any rules in place regulating where cannabis businesses can or cannot operate.
Under state law, businesses cannot be within 600 feet of schools or other places children congregate but there are no other land-use restrictions. Businesses must get both state and local permits to operate.
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But with Moreno Valley’s ban on sales expiring next week, it’s unclear how the development of land-use regulations will proceed. The business permitting rules need to go to the council for a second vote before taking effect 30 days later.
Councilwoman David Marquez said the temporary ban was needed as a safety measure until the city determine where it’s appropriate to allow cannabis sales. He noted that if that process takes less time, the ban would expire then.
“It’s going to create chaos,” he said after the meeting. “The illegal dispensaries are going to start opening up all over the place.”
About a dozen illegal dispensaries have been operating in the city, but Koczanowicz said officials have shut some of them down including one recently near a bank on Heacock Street.
Councilman Jeffrey Giba and Marquez voted against the permitting rules, accusing the council majority led by Mayor Yxstian Gutierrez of rushing the process.
Both Councilwoman Victoria Baca and Gutierrez called for a quicker process after asking for the ordinance and calling Tuesday’s special meeting at a study session two weeks ago.
Initially, they said they wanted the ban to expire at the end of the year and would only agree to seven months after a series of unsuccessful votes.
Giba and Marquez pressed for a 12-month ban, but would only agree to shorten it to 10 months.
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Councilman Ulises Cabera initially supported a 12-month ban, but then later sided with Baca and Gutierrez for a seven-month ban.
Koczanowicz urged the council to find a compromise.
“There could be a lot of things that could go wrong if the city was without regulation,” he said.
Gutierrez adjourned the meeting after council members could not agree.
“I don’t really think it matters to have a ban while we’re having that (legalization process) at the same time,” he said.
The council heard from both supporters and opponents of legalizing sales at the meeting. Supporters compared the current rules to prohibition while opponents said it would create more crime problems and promote marijuana use in the city.
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