Valley News -

By Jeff Pack

Wildomar council votes to prohibit cannabis facilities, regulate cultivation


Last updated 11/1/2018 at 10:54pm

The Wildomar City Council voted unanimously – with Mayor Pro Tem Marsha Swanson not in attendance – to approve an ordinance that prohibits commercial cannabis facilities within city limits and regulating cannabis cultivation to mirror rules set forth by Proposition 64.

The ordinance extends the temporary prohibiting ordinance beyond December when it was scheduled to expire.

“This ordinance protects us moving forward,” city Planning Director Matthew Bassi said. “Without this we won’t have any provision that would stop people from doing it. They would just go out.”

Mayor Ben Benoit asked city attorney Thomas Jex why not having an ordinance in place could put the city in precarious position.

“We’ll go back to the first question is what if there wasn’t an ordinance and what that would do as far as if we had illegal operation, how would that change or if we had an illegal operation that we wanted to shut down?” Benoit asked. “Because if they were in a residential area or some other reason, like we had recently in the area, how would that affect that if we went to trial on that?”

“Sure, it would make it extremely difficult,” Jex said. “Because a judge is going to ask for the city’s ordinance that prohibits this type of use and any type of use. If we couldn’t point to a specific ordinance that explicitly prohibited this use, it would you know, at best cause confusion, at worse because the judge would say, ‘Well then it perhaps it’s an allowed use since you have no regulation at all within your city’s code.’”

The Adult Use Marijuana Act or Proposition 64 allows adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and are also allowed to cultivate up to six marijuana plants inside their homes.

The city’s newly approved ordinance said, “No person or entity may cultivate cannabis at any location in the city, except that a person may cultivate no more than six living cannabis plants inside his or her private residence, or inside an accessory structure to his or her private residence located upon the grounds of that private residence that is fully enclosed and secured against unauthorized entry, provided that the owner of the property provides written consent expressly allowing the cannabis cultivation to occur.”

“We can reasonably regulate indoor growth, and we can regulate completely outdoor growth, right?” council member Dustin Nigg said.

“We can completely prohibit outdoor growth,” Jex said. “The temporary prohibition, the temporary ordinance we have right now that expires in December, it’s got the exact same language as this ordinance on growing, but it does allow indoor growing of six or fewer marijuana plants.”

Council member Bridgette Moore asked for clarification about cannabis delivery services, and Jex reiterated that those businesses would continue to be illegal.

“There’s just so much, someone at the League of California Cities said, ‘Everything with marijuana is complicated. Everything,’” Moore said. “This is not something we’re going to jump into, especially when our residents say they don’t want it. This is something we have to do right now, and in the future we can talk about it again.”

Nigg continued to weigh in during the council member comment portion of the meeting.

“For tonight’s purpose, am I disheartened?” he said. “Maybe slightly. But it’s what’s smart and you when December rolls around and we have nothing in place, which means everything is legal and essentially, which gives us no basis in court to defend ourselves, or we do this and keep pushing forward with the end state of doing something that I think is responsible?

“This to me is only a temporary solution, but until then, I think this is the smart and correct thing to do,” Jex said.

Council member Tim Walker reiterated that he is in support of the ban but recognizes that the federal government is evaluating whether or not to drop marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug distinction.

“If they do that, it’s going to change the whole thing anyway,” Walker said. “And so, I’m a law-abiding citizen, and I’m going to follow the rules of the land and the land right now says it’s not legal, so therefore I won’t vote for it.

“We just can’t afford any lawsuits. So this is going to protect us until the rest of everybody wants to figure out something to do with it. But until they make it legal across the country, then I’ll be OK with it. That’s real simple for me to understand,” Walker said.

Benoit weighed in before calling for a vote.

“I think it’s something we need to do at this point. I think it’s time we go ahead and move forward,” he said. “We need to bring something forward at some point and talk about it and have an honest discussion about it. I’m leaning more with Dustin, and it’s something we need to move forward on. At this point though, what we’re really here for tonight, is this the permanent ban to keep us from going into a different state which would not allow us to do things like it took forever to shut down a dispensary that was operating illegally in my part of town that I got a complaint after complaint after complaint about.”

Before council comments and clarifications, resident Gina Castanon spoke to the council during the public comments portion of the meeting and expressed her concerns.

She said a survey the city conducted with residents regarding Measure AA and cannabis was both a waste of money and limited in scope.

“Because your survey, in my opinion, was limited with a skewed view, it gave you the justification for putting (Measure AA) on the ballot,” she said. “Now you had cannabis in the survey and why wouldn’t you have put an option for the residents? Since 58 percent of the residents in 2016 voted for legalization in the state, (you could have given) them the opportunity to voice their opinion through their vote for either a one cent tax that you’re doing, or 1 percent a 1 percent sales tax for commercial cannabis.”

Resident Greg Langworthy spoke in support of approval of the ban.

“I’m just here to, to say that I appreciate the stand that you guys have taken on the ordinance,” he said. “So, I think you guys have been doing the right thing, and I know you’ve been taking heat for your stance. I just encourage you to keep it up. I think you’re making Wildomar into a city that we can be proud of by taking those stances.”

The council also addressed the Community Choice Aggregation Program and first amendment to the Western Community Energy Joint Powers Agreement from the Western Riverside Council of Governments.

“We’ve gotten back the financials and what the financials are telling us is they went out in the market in October of next year and bought power for our community to use, I think it would start in April of the following year,” Benoit said. “The financials show that we could save about 2 percent.

“So, the way this is gonna work is we’re gonna spend a little bit of money, not just talking about WRCOG and we’ve already put money aside for this. They’ve also a loan to get this started, but after about two years, we’ll pay back that loan and after seven years, we’ll then have a reserve and still that whole time with the citizens, they will be saving about 2 percent on their bill.”

Both amendments were approved unanimously.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected]


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