The Riverside City Council voted Tuesday, Oct. 25, to continue to ban commercial marijuana land use and the outdoor cultivation of recreational marijuana for another 10 months, but officials say they’ll look hard at alternatives in the meantime.
The council voted unanimously to extend the moratorium, which originally passed in September, on the condition that city staff report back soon with answers to a few questions and a longer-term plan.
A public workshop including answers to questions from council members and the public will be held Dec. 5, said Rafael Guzman, Riverside’s director of Community and Economic Development.[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-section” curated_ids=””]In addition, an ordinance specifically covering laboratory testing facilities will come to the City Council for direction Nov. 7, Guzman said.
The purpose of the temporary ban is to allow the city to craft a thoughtful, comprehensive policy on marijuana, said Councilman Jim Perry, who was acting as mayor in Rusty Bailey’s absence.
“In many ways, Proposition 64 is uncharted territory, and many consider this one of the largest public policy issues of our time,” Perry said. “The challenge is that there is no recipe on how to effectively respond to this change in state law, yet the consequences for public safety, health and land use are sizeable if we get this wrong.”
During the moratorium, the city needs to work toward a reasonable policy, or it will attract ballot measures allowing marijuana on terms that could be less favorable for the city, said Councilman Mike Soubirous.
“I’m just worried about us looking like we’re kicking the can down the road and not doing our due diligence and making decisions, and then getting imposed upon with initiatives,” Soubirous said, pointing to the two ballot measures coming in Jurupa Valley.
The city should rescind the moratorium if a measure is put on the ballot, but regardless, it should act quickly, said Councilman Mike Gardner.
“I think the moratorium is important, but I do think we need to get rolling on this, not wait until after the first of the year to start,” Gardner said. “I’d like to see us move forward pretty quickly on this.”
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Councilman Chuck Conder said allowing any form of marijuana was dangerous to the city, comparing it to officials’ initial inattention to the shark danger in the movie “Jaws.”
“How did we get to a point where the city of Riverside is looking at allowing the cultivation and free sale of a drug that is detrimental to society?” Conder asked. “I’m absolutely just at a loss.”
A majority of voters supported Prop. 64, the 2016 state initiative to legalize marijuana, in every ward except Ward 4, represented by Conder.
Riverside has banned dispensaries since 2007, and as of May 2017 officials had shut down all of the dispensaries in the city. None were open in Riverside as of Tuesday, City Attorney Gary Geuss said later in the meeting.
Licensed patients or caregivers can grow up to eight marijuana plants in the city.
Ryan Bacchas, interim CEO of the California Cannabis Coalition, attended the meeting and said he was pleased with the City Council’s direction.
“Riverside seems to be working in good faith,” said Bacchas, whose pro-pot organization won a California Supreme Court victory against Upland this summer over a marijuana ballot measure there. “I’m hopeful.”
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