Valley News -

By Diane Sieker
Writer 

AVMAC hears final Cannabis Emergency Regulation Committee report

 

Last updated 5/11/2018 at 12:21pm

Diane Sieker

Cannabis Emergency Regulation Committee members Daryl Hossler, left, and George Hanian follow along with Gomez-Krauss's CERC report reading at the special meeting of the Anza Valley Municipal Action Council held at the Anza Community Hall Wednesday, April 25.

A special meeting of the Anza Valley Municipal Action Council was held at the Anza Community Hall Wednesday, April 25. The AVMAC's Cannabis Emergency Regulation Committee presented their report on suggested cannabis regulations to the council.

CERC was organized to help the AVMAC advise Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington's office of the cannabis regulations that will best suit the Anza and Aguanga areas.

CERC members Committee Chair Edison Gomez-Krauss, Vice Chair Bob Giffin, Kevin Short, Phillip Canaday, Kiran Samuels, Daryl Hossler, Kendall Steinmetz and George Hanian were present. Richard Ku was absent.

AVMAC board members Sharon Evans, Bob Giffin and Edison Gomez were in attendance. Gordon Lanik and Allison Renck were absent.

Gomez-Krauss read the recommendations contained in the report, which included considerations for the various aspects of cannabis cultivation.

"While there is no regulatory path that will satisfy all concerned, the committee is hopeful that our work in compiling the data contained within the full body of this report will be helpful and informative in developing a better understanding of this complicated and dynamic situation," according to the report. "All members of the committee voluntarily devoted their time and effort toward producing the most clear, concise, informative and objective information possible.

"A key component of the issue involves land use and zoning. Currently, the overwhelming majority of commercial grow operations are located on property zoned RR/RA. This raises questions as to the suitability of these properties for this activity, as well as the impacts on surrounding properties and the greater community. The committee reached the following zoning recommendation to the board of supervisors.

"In full consideration of the complexities of the issues presented, CERC recommends that the board of supervisors consider the needs of all parties – cannabis growers, local residents, businesses and other members of the community.

"As the committee included representatives of the cannabis growing community, it was determined that information be included in the report regarding cultivation and the opinions of growers regarding fee structures, canopy size/plant count regulations and other factors affecting their businesses. CERC commissioned an informal survey of growers to obtain this information. The results indicate that those responding seek flexibility in the costs and constraints of any regulatory effort.

"Ground water use for this agricultural product is difficult to quantify, and CERC recommends further study. A major factor in this issue is the ongoing litigation in the area regarding water rights.

"Anza Electric Cooperative is the serving entity for the area. AEC has experienced recent unprecedented growth in energy and demand, largely due to the influx of cannabis operations. This has resulted in increased costs due to the burden on their system, as well as a severe contraction of their growth and expansion planning window. An increase in energy theft by some growers has had a negative impact, and illegal and unsafe electrical installations have escalated the risk of shock and fire.

"A representative from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department attended a meeting of CERC and answered questions regarding cannabis activity in the area. He acknowledged that the Anza Valley has the highest concentration of illegal cannabis growers in the county, and that some are dangerous. He stated that the Sheriff's Department is aware of area residents' concerns and encouraged those with complaints and concerns to call."

After this presentation, public comment ensued. Residents raised concerns about the dangers some growers present to travelers of the Pacific Crest Trail, the lack of enforcement of existing cannabis laws, worries about groundwater contamination and depletion, increased crime and traffic, energy drains and theft and the lighting nuisances presented by lighted greenhouses. Comments were held to three minutes per speaker.

Gomez-Krauss answered many questions and explained that the CERC was not addressing existing ordinances such as Ordinance 655 that regulates the lighting restrictions in consideration of the Palomar Observatory's need for dark skies. Such inclusion in the report would have been redundant.

People noted that law enforcement – Riverside County Code Enforcement and Riverside County Sheriffs Department – are grossly understaffed, underfunded and unable to keep up with the complaints that they receive.

A woman who only wished to be identified as "Mary" spoke passionately about the growers in her neighborhood.

"I am an 8-year resident of Anza," she said. "The problems started four years ago. There are huge quality of living problems that the pot growers have introduced that have not been represented as serious concerns on the CERC committee. The larger issue ... the 2016 numbers – 80 percent of the marijuana grown in California finds an end-user outside the state. Eight-zero percent. The vast majority of people growing in Anza could not possibly be part of the state system. They cannot possibly be regulated. Prop 64 does not allow for the export out of state. Thumbs-down to this report. It is representing the interests of the pot growers, not the interests of the people who've been in Anza many years who came here for the quality of life."

Another resident commented that there were even social media alerts to Pacific Crest Trail users who travel past Anza do so "at your own peril" because "people have been shot at" by pot growers. There was some discussion of the validity of this claim.

"If we don't come up with a viable solution," Giffin said. "And generate some money, I can guarantee you one thing – there will be more greenhouses here. They are growing faster than the pot is growing."

In an earlier CERC meeting, Capt. Leonard Purvis with the Hemet substation of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department said that authorities consider Anza to be the most saturated cannabis cultivation area in the entire county.

Both pro and anti-cannabis speakers took to the microphone, expressing frustration on both sides of the issue.

"We will weed out the bad players," Anza resident Chris McKay said, as he spoke in favor of affordable regulations and permitting. He said the existing laws regarding cultivation and the rights of people to grow as spelled out in Propositions 64 and 215 and state Senate Bill 420.

The explosion of greenhouses and cultivations has alarmed may residents.

CERC member Kiran Samuals advised the audience to report violations they see and become the squeaky wheel. 

"Budgets are determined by complaints," she said. "They (law enforcement) are required to respond. If you stop calling that will make the situation worse. Stand up tall, call the county board of supervisors, call Chuck Washington, write to him on email, make lucid complaints. Let there be a balanced conversation. Respect those people that want to be good neighbors and absolutely call out the people who are not behaving correctly."

The CERC report will be submitted to Chuck Washington's office in the near future.

"This is a recommendation; you can take it with a grain of salt," Giffin said of the CERC report. But he freely admitted there are major issues and hurdles that must be addressed, and it is indeed an emergency for the Anza area.

The meeting adjourned and people stayed long after, discussing their differences and opening valuable dialogue in regards to the cannabis issues.

The CERC report can be read in its entirety at http://www.anzavalleymac.xyz/gallery/cerc%20report.pdf.

The next regularly scheduled AVMAC meeting will be held Wednesday, May 9.

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 https://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, 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 email at [email protected]

 

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