Valley News -

By Diane Sieker
Writer 

Cannabis Emergency Regulation Committee discusses Riverside County supervisors' workshop on cannabis regulations

 

Last updated 4/4/2018 at 5:03am

Diane Sieker

From left to right, Cannabis Emergency Regulation Committee members Richard Ku, Daryl Hossler, Kevin Short, Edison Gomez-Krauss, Bob Giffin, Kiran Samuels and Phillip Canaday go over reports at the CERC meeting Thursday, March 22.

The Anza Valley Municipal Advisory Council hosted another Cannabis Emergency Regulation Committee meeting at Anza Electric Cooperative's conference room Thursday, March 22.

CERC members Committee Chair Edison Gomez-Krauss, Vice Chair Bob Giffin, Kevin Short, Phillip Canaday, Kiran Samuels, Daryl Hossler, Richard Ku, Kendall Steinmetz and George Hanian were present. Several members of the public were on hand for the meeting.

The CERC strives to help the AVMAC advise county Supervisor Chuck Washington's office of the cannabis regulations that will best suit the Anza and Aguanga areas.

Gomez-Krauss called the meeting to order and summarized the highlights of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting workshop on cannabis regulation in the unincorporated area, held Tuesday, March 20, in Riverside.

"The supervisors recently voted to proceed on the cannabis regulation talks ... and that will shape the direction in which this committee needs to go," he said.

Gomez-Krauss said that four of the CERC members had attended the board of supervisors' meeting workshop on cannabis regulation. Giffin reported on the meeting.

"Supervisors Washington and Jeffries were appointed in November of last year to start the study of what the county would like or need as far as cannabis and no input was taken from anybody I know but ... the staff provided the county of Riverside Planning Department Staff Report," he said.

Giffin outlined the contents of the report and their recommendations. He said that the county proposed limiting countywide permits or licenses to 50, which, according to Edison, reflected what the county thought it could handle in the first year. Giffin said that most of the audience at the meeting was pro-cannabis, with very few voices against it.

Another highlight presented was the proposed prohibition of grows in residential areas. A discussion commenced regarding the rural residential zoning of most of Anza and that growing activities would be negatively impacted by such a prohibition.

Another point under discussion was the mention in the staff report of the need for $1.8 million for regulation of the cannabis industry, including $695,000 for Code Enforcement to enforce the regulated grows, suggesting three officers for the entire unincorporated Riverside County area. 

"That means Anza stays the same, you will not get more Code Enforcement, you will not get enforcement budget for the sheriffs, that will not happen," Gomez-Krauss said. "The status quo will remain. That's what's worrisome. You will not have regulated growth in Anza."

Samuels said, "For those of us who are residents of Anza that don't grow, our choices are to either have 100 percent illegal grows or a percentage of legal grows. All of the illegal grows have no budget to enforce them, and so we're essentially where we are except that that new group of illegal cannabis growers are now separated out into some that are compliant and some that are not."

The county had discussed the regulation being paid by developer taxes and fees.

It was said that the county is already deciding a lot of what the CERC had hoped to present to them, but it was felt that their work and studies would help fine-tune any regulations presented by the county.

"If they're not going to enforce any laws, this is all meaningless," Hossler said.

"No other community in the unincorporated area is doing what we're doing right now," Gomez-Krauss said. "So that's the first step. We've taken the first step toward letting the supervisors know what is best for our community."

Richard Ku provided and update on the Cannabis Information Survey and shared some resulting preliminary data with a PowerPoint presentation.

According to Ku, 51 people have responded so far via the online survey. Ku went through each question and the recorded percentages. Most respondents said they would be willing to be regulated. About 75 percent of the growers surveyed grew both indoor and outdoor. It was revealed that most of the respondents wished to grow in 5,000-10,000 square feet of space. Cultivators also favored a low annual permit fee structure based on square footage for indoor grows. For outdoor cultivation, permitting according to canopy size was preferred over taxing the number of plants. The number of plants that were favored was from 250 to 750 plants. The responding growers chose low permit fees, with several people choosing not to participate in those questions. Most people responded that their parcel size was varied, with answers of 1 acre to 20 acres or more being submitted.

It was stressed that the survey was an indicator of trends in the valley, not a scientific study.

Ku read some comments that had been left by respondents, which dealt primarily with limiting grow canopy size and the prohibiting of corporate farms.

"We don't know how many growers are here," Ku said, "And so at least this gives us good preliminary numbers."

Gomez-Krauss introduced special guest Riverside County Sheriff's Department Capt. Leonard Puvis who said that he was becoming more and more familiar with the Anza area and its unique issues and answered a variety of questions from the committee.

"We do get a lot of complaints about illegal marijuana grows," he said. "We address the larger grows, we are complaint-driven. We're looking at hundreds of grows up here."

Water and energy thefts, and animal abandonment are a main focus of the Sheriff's Department in dealing with illegal cultivations, Purvis said. 

"We're dealing with multi-thousand plant cases usually," he added.

When asked about response times, Purvis reiterated his commitment to having a deputy on "the hill" at all times, but the large area, staffing issues and call volume sometimes made that difficult.

"I want what's good for this community," Purvis said.

When questioned about perceived dangerous criminal activity associated with the illegal grows, Purvis said that there are some bad actors in the region.

"They're not here to make friends," he said. "They're here to make a buck, and they could care less about the quality of life that you folks have to deal with."

He invited the public to call in any concerns they have and said that fear of retribution can be eased by making the complaint anonymously.

Gomez-Krauss opened public comments and questions directed at Purvis. Concerns included cannabis prices falling drastically and if this may be an indication that the growers will be leaving. There was concern about the quality of life being affected in the valley and people being forced to move away as a result.

Comments regarding enforcement, staffing and crime statistics followed and were answered by Purvis.

Moving on to the next item, Gomez-Krauss asked the committee if anyone had any experience with neighborhood associations, hoping that type of organization might provide the avenue for funds to be collected for cannabis enforcement to be used in the community exclusively.

"If we can't find a way to drive revenue back to Anza, we're left with the only option of maybe just helping the supervisors regulate in the most responsible manner and getting not much back other than what they would determine they would give the community," said Gomez-Krauss.

Committee member Daryl Hossler spoke of the growing complexity of the cannabis issues and "no end in sight because this is a complicated topic." 

"This is supposed to be an 'emergency regulation committee', not 'how to make cannabis growing better committee and we spend more time talking about how to make the growers welcome than we do coming up with emergency regulations," he said.

Hossler proposed that the committee consider working with the AEC, because in his view, the threats to the energy grid and the thefts of electricity are the imminent emergency. The supervisors, in his opinion, ought to be helping with these major issues.

"We have to present the supervisors with a cohesive plan...we have to present a short, mid and long-term plan," countered Gomez-Krauss. 

At this time a member of the audience interjected his opinions out of turn and became quite passionate about his position that the committee "was a big zoo." He made his points and exited the meeting peacefully.

Gomez-Krauss explained the scope of the committee and admitted that it has become more complicated than he had anticipated, but the progress made by the group was evident.

Mike Machado spoke briefly, stating that with his immense experience with Riverside County, he suggested writing an ordinance to present to the Supervisors that would address the issues.

"Citizens writing an ordinance is the best way to approach it," he said. "Otherwise, you're going nowhere, you're not going to get anything."

Samuels added that the committee needed to really analyze the study released by the supervisors at the March 20 workshop. In her opinion, they were way ahead of the CERC in terms of understanding the issues and trying to develop the regulations that will be needed. She expressed frustration at the approaching deadline for the CERC report and feared they would not be ready.

Short added that they need to develop a report that is broad and not too detailed. The energy issues are paramount.

"We need to focus on the bigger picture," he said.

It was suggested to use the Supervisor's Staff Study as a blueprint.

It was agreed to scrap the remaining agenda items, appoint sub-committees to study the Staff Report and move to public comments.

Anza resident Thomas Karras asked for clarification of why the unincorporated areas of the county are so impacted by the legalization of cannabis. 

Samuels and Gomez-Krauss described Ordinance 925, the huge amount of growers in the Valley and that all the county unincorporated areas are feeling the need for some regulation to control the growth and impacts of the cannabis industry. 

Andrew Carey from Anza said he suggested making sure the county regulations click with the state regulations, to avoid additional confusion.

The next meeting of the CERC will be 5 p.m. Thursday, April 5, at the AEC offices. The public is welcome to attend.

For more information regarding the AVMAC Cannabis Emergency Regulation Committee, send an email to [email protected]

Diane Sieker

Richard Ku, left, and Kendall Steinmetz listen to presentations at the Cannabis Emergency Regulation Committee meeting Thursday, March 22.

To contact Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington's office, call (951) 955-1030 or visit http://supervisorchuckwashington.com.

For more information about the AVMAC, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AnzaValleyMAC.

For updates on cannabis ordinances and laws in Riverside county, residents can visit http://planning.rctlma.org/Home/Cannabis.aspx.

For information on what is currently allowed in the unincorporated areas of Riverside County, including a public input page to leave comments on this issue, please visit http://planning.rctlma.org/Home/Cannabis/PublicInput.aspx.

To learn more about state cultivation regulations and fees, visit http://calcannabis.cdfa.ca.gov.

Diane Sieker can be reached by sending an email to [email protected]

 

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