Riverside has long prohibited medical marijuana dispensaries. Now officials may add recreational pot businesses to the ban — at least temporarily.

Since November, when California voters legalized adult use of marijuana, the Riverside City Council has not decided whether to allow, tax and regulate pot cultivation, manufacturing and sales.

[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-section” curated_ids=””]On Tuesday, July 25, council members will consider saying no to pot businesses until they have more information on how state regulations will look and what other Inland and Southern California communities are doing.

City officials are proposing a moratorium on recreational pot businesses until rules are created to regulate them. A city report doesn’t specify the length of the moratorium, but the law says such bans can last up to two years.

“This is a moving target statewide,” City Manager John Russo said Friday, July 21. “Given that the voters in Riverside had voted against medical dispensaries (in 2015), my general sort of advice and direction has been to go slow and see what others are doing.”

He also noted that city voters in November favored the statewide legalization measure, which could be seen as a mixed message.

A consultant told Riverside officials earlier this year that the city could collect millions in revenue by licensing a limited number of pot shops and growing operations. Any tax proposal and some other pot regulations would require a public vote.

As officials consider whether to ban all pot-related businesses permanently or just until they can draft a set of regulations, residents and interest groups are likely to weigh in.

Bree Hill, left, budtender for Organic Solutions of the Desert, a medical marijuana dispensary in Palm Springs, grabs a couple of jars of medical cannabis in order to help a client while budtender Travis Fellows, right, helps another customer. (File photo by Rodrigo Peña, contributing photographer)

Already the California Professional Firefighters, a statewide professional organization, wrote a letter urging Riverside officials to consider the increased demands pot businesses would place on police and firefighters.

Tim Strack, who heads the Riverside City Firefighters Association and is a district vice president for the state firefighters group, said the issue hasn’t been discussed by the local union. But it will be, he said.

The biggest concern for firefighters is honey oil labs, which use chemicals to extract THC, the main psychoactive drug in cannabis, he said. The labs are volatile and can explode.

The fire department also would need more inspectors to visit new pot stores and grow operations, not to mention the impact on code enforcement and police, he said.

The state firefighters group’s letter doesn’t explicitly support or oppose marijuana businesses, but it suggests that if they are allowed, any taxes and fees they generate could help pay for additional public safety services.

Some council members have said they oppose any marijuana businesses in the city, but others have indicated they’re potentially open to the concept with the proper regulations.

Russo has previously spoken in favor of legalizing the drug, but in his prior role as Oakland city attorney, he refused to advise the council on how to allow pot businesses to open after state voters rejected a 2010 legalization measure.

Those past stances are now irrelevant, Russo said, because he takes direction from the Riverside City Council, and “their position is my position.”

Council members appear divided on the issue and it’s unclear which direction they’ll go, Russo said. While they may give general direction Tuesday, he said, it could be several months before a firm policy decision is made.

What: The Riverside City Council will consider a temporary moratorium on recreational pot businesses.

When: 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 25

Where: The council chambers at Riverside City Hall, 3900 Main St.

Information: A meeting agenda and report are available at www.riversideca.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.

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