Valley News -

By Diane Sieker

Washington addresses cannabis concerns at town hall meeting


Last updated 7/26/2018 at 2:19pm

Diane Sieker

Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington answers questions presented by a speaker at the town hall meeting Thursday, July 19, addressing cannabis activities in the Anza Valley.

Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington hosted a town hall meeting Thursday, July 19, at the Community Hall in Anza. The discussion centered around Washington's desire to hear from Anza's residents about impending new rules regarding cannabis cultivation and related activities in unincorporated Riverside County.

A packed room of over 150 people were in attendance.

Surrounded by his aides and representatives from the Sheriff's Office, TLMA and Code Enforcement departments, Washington began by spelling out the rules of the meeting and introducing his staff and officials.

Public comments were held to two minutes per speaker. There was a split between those for and those opposed to the cannabis presence in the Anza Valley.

Washington answered many questions and also delegated certain questions to Capt. Leonard Purvis of the Riverside County Sheriffs Department, Charissa Leach, P. E., Assistant TLMA Director, Community Development, County of Riverside and Hector Viray, deputy director, TMLA-Code Enforcement.

Washington explained Ordinance 925, which at this time is the law governing cannabis activities in unincorporated Riverside County. 

Currently, Riverside County Ordinance 925 prohibits the cultivation of cannabis in unincorporated Riverside County, with some exceptions. 

Medical patients may grow 12 plants per card on a permitted parcel, with two cards per property for 24 plants allowed. Recreational users, as per Prop 64, may grow 6 plants per person 21 years of age or older, but only 6 plants per permitted property, no matter how many people living there are over 21. Anything else is illegal until the county supervisors develop a new regulatory scheme because of the passage of Prop 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Until any modification of Ord. 348 is performed, or nothing done at all, Ord. 925 will continue be the law of the land.

The Riverside County Planning Commission is considering an amendment to the Riverside County Land Use Ordinance 348, proposing to establish new regulations and development standards for cannabis activities within the unincorporated areas of Riverside County.

The changes presented for unincorporated Riverside County would allow for the commercial cultivation, manufacturing, testing, distribution and the sale of marijuana products for both the medical and recreational markets.

The modifications include permitting only indoor cultivation and requiring businesses to implement security and odor-control systems. Workers would be required to be at least 21 years of age and be subject to background checks. Retailers would be required to have separate entrances for medical and recreational customers.

Specifically prohibited activities would be the outdoor cultivation of mature plants, mobile cannabis retailers and any commercial cannabis activity that is not expressly provided for in both an approved conditional use permit and a valid cannabis license issued by the State. 

There are major restrictions on zoning, with cultivation being prohibited in many areas. The growing of marijuana affects the quality of life in residential areas and therefore, the permitting of cannabis cultivation is not recommended in these zones. Consideration was given to the potential for allowing some cultivation within the RR, Rural Residential Zone and the W-2, Residential Controlled Development Zone, and the R-A, Residential Agriculture Zone, as these zones allow for some agricultural uses and tend to be applied to many large properties throughout the unincorporated County areas.

Many in the audience expressed their appreciation that the Supervisor and his staff took the time to come to Anza and hear what they had to say.

According to Washington, throughout the county, cities have greatly suppressed the lawfulness of cannabis cultivation. He said that Anza and other unincorporated areas "are it" for cannabis farming.

"We are trying to address the possibility of regulating the commercial growing of marijuana. We looked at commercial zoning here, which is all along 371. It's very unlikely someone would grow marijuana right on the highway. So, it's a complex issue to try to craft an ordinance that can accommodate everyone."

Mary Perkins of Anza responded, "However a vote to allow commercial cultivation of cannabis in our unincorporated valley will negatively impact out neighborhoods, our children and the future of this area."

Anza Valley Municipal Action Council member Allison Rencke addressed the county's General Plan, explaining that the Plan clearly defines certain areas for certain purposes and appropriate land uses. 

"I believe that cannabis cultivation on the RR and RA areas is not conducive to that plan," she said.

AVMAC Cannabis Emergency Regulation Committee member Richard Ku said he was for family farm cannabis cultivation, with the proper regulation.

CERC member Kendall Steinmetz complained that the word "marijuana" was inaccurate and the word "cannabis" is more appropriate and that water usage figures were greatly exaggerated in regard to plant cultivation figures. He revealed that he was part of a growers association that will be performing good deeds in the community.

Chris McKay was passionate as he spoke of the hypocritical attitude of many residents in regard to cannabis. He addressed Washington, "You're supposed to listen to the voters, not listen to the propaganda and the lies," he said, referring to the voter approved Prop 64, legalizing recreational cannabis use. As far as laws preventing its use and cultivation, "All those laws were made by racism, hate, fear, no facts, no evidence and you guys keep wanting the propaganda to continue."

Other concerns expressed by residents had to do with water use issues, pesticides, trash, violence and crime, impacts to groundwater, problems with stress on the electrical grid and energy theft, unpermitted development, organized criminal operations, the water suit and prohibition of drilling commercial wells, tensions between growers and residents and odors.

The pro-cannabis residents applauded the benefits of cannabis cultivation, such as medicinal uses, jobs and a source of income for local families.

Purvis explained the law enforcement limitations and processes, while Viray commented on Code Enforcement's procedures in regard to illegal marijuana grow complaints.

Leach gave an overview of the zoning and the proposed changes to Ord. 348. She said the regulations would encompass grows if they were allowed in RR and RA residential zoning areas.

"What the Planning Commission did yesterday is they said, 'Look, we're not ready to approve it in this area or any other area in the county," she explained. "There's not enough information without doing some sort of environmental study so that we can look and see what those impacts are. We're trying to make this ordinance good for everybody across the county, not just the growers, not just the residents. We need to make sure that it doesn't negatively impact anybody. So, in order to do that, the planning commission moved forward without approving any residential zone without actually having more time to study it. That's what they asked us to do."

Washington explained the planning commission makes recommendations to the Supervisors.

"The Board of Supervisors will then take up the discussion about what to do and their recommendation," he said. "They have said they are not ready to recommend that this occur in RR and RA without further study."

Diane Sieker

Sage resident Jake Baird asks why a blanket prohibition or approval was being considered when not all RR and RA lots are the same at the town hall meeting Thursday, July 19, addressing cannabis activities in the Anza Valley.

The meeting was informative and the county officials went away with an increased understanding of the issues facing the Anza Valley in regard to cannabis activities.

To contact Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington's office, call (951) 955-1030 or visit

For more information about the AVMAC, visit their Facebook page at

For updates on cannabis ordinances and laws in Riverside county, residents can visit

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

To learn more about state cultivation regulations and fees, visit

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at [email protected]


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