Commercial cannabis would not be allowed in residential areas and there would be limits on cultivation and what goes on inside marijuana retail shops under a set of rules proposed for Riverside County’s unincorporated communities.
The suggested regulations, developed over the past year by county staff and discussed last month at a Board of Supervisors workshop, are not final and will be publicly reviewed by the county Planning Commission as early as next month before eventually going back to supervisors for approval.
A specific date for the commission to discuss the rules has not been scheduled “and there have been no substantive changes to what the board discussed” March 20, said county spokesman Ray Smith.
“The draft regulations did not cover every aspects in-depth, so a proposed ordinance might introduce details that were not specifically part of the discussion,” he said.
The extent to which marijuana commerce should be allowed in unincorporated areas has been a question for the five supervisors since California voters in 2016 approved Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana.
Don’t miss our reviews of strains, edibles, topicals, tinctures, vape oils and other cannabis products.
Adults can have possess and use limited amounts of the drug in their homes, but cities and counties have the authority to allow or ban marijuana-related businesses in their jurisdictions. Fewer than one in three California cities allow marijuana commerce and just 18 of 58 counties allow cannabis ventures in unincorporated areas, according to The Cannifornian’s database that tracks and compiles information on local cannabis regulations.
County government makes land-use rules in areas that aren’t formally part of a city, and a ban remains in place on marijuana cultivation in unincorporated communities, save for what’s allowed under Prop. 64. There’s also a limited exemption for medical marijuana patients and their caregivers.
But with unlicensed dispensaries and marijuana farms a fact of life in many unincorporated parts of the county, supervisors are looking at regulations to prevent noxious smells, crime and other problems tied to unregulated cannabis.
Originally, the plan was to tie a series of rules to a November ballot measure that would impose a local cannabis tax to cover enforcement costs. If voters rejected the tax, the current ban would have stayed in place.
But on March 20, a divided board voted to scrap that plan in favor of striking developer agreements with individual cannabis entrepreneurs. The agreements are supposed to cover the costs of regulation, estimated at roughly $1.8 million a year, although that doesn’t include the cost of going after bad actors or approving marijuana commercial projects.
The draft set of rules govern those who grow, sell, test or distribute marijuana. No cannabis enterprise would be allowed in residential zones and Temecula Valley Wine Country would be off-limits.
Commercial cultivation would be regulated and there would be a one-acre limit on each commercial parcel. Growers would need to submit plans to handle security and odor-control and at least some of the electricity used for indoor farming would have to come from renewable sources.
Retailers would not be allowed to have live entertainment, sell tobacco or alcohol, or allow marijuana to be used on-site. Marijuana packages would have to be opaque, hiding what’s inside, and stores would have to keep their products locked up during non-business hours.
Marijuana distributors’ vehicles would have to have GPS technology and a secure place for keeping money and product. Testing labs would need detailed security plans and hazardous waste permits.
To keep county staff from being overwhelmed, officials suggest limiting the number of dispensary permits in the first year to 19, with a 50-permit limit for growers.
The rules drew criticism from members of the public at the March 20 board workshop. Many objected to the first-year limit on permits, while others took issue with restrictions on outdoor growing.
To subscribe to The Cannifornian’s email newsletter, click here.