Pubdate: Mon, 02 Jan 2017
Source: Fresno Bee, The (CA)
Copyright: 2017 The Fresno Bee
Note: Does not publish letters from outside their circulation area.

Huron could be the second city in Fresno County to allow medical marijuana
cultivation, manufacture and distribution, city documents show. Meanwhile,
growers already are lining up to court neighboring Coalinga, which
approved medical cannabis in July.

But other cities in conservative Fresno County, which has opposed all
marijuana use for decades, remain in opposition to medical cannabis. Some
have even passed resolutions formally opposing California Proposition 64,
the state initiative in the upcoming election that would legalize adult
recreational marijuana use. The initiative is likely to pass, but most of
the county appears ready to forgo millions in potential marijuana revenue
due to public safety concerns.

Huron introduced the first version of an ordinance that would allow
"marijuana cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation and
distribution" on Wednesday at its City Council meeting. City Manager Jack
Castro said the council opted not to approve the ordinance, however, as
more feedback from the community is needed.

In Coalinga, just 20 miles west of Huron, medical marijuana is quickly
becoming a major industry. Ocean Grown Extracts finalized a deal last
month to pay the city $4.1 million for its vacant prison, the Claremont
Custody Center. The company plans to turn Claremont into a medical
cannabis oil manufacturing operation.

Ocean Grown co-owner Casey Dalton is negotiating with the city to purchase
several more plots at the Juniper Ridge Industrial Park. And she isn't the
only one.

The Coalinga City Council approved medical marijuana dispensaries in
January, but immediately walked back those plans after intense public
scrutiny. The issue will now head to the ballot.

Structured Hydro Enterprises of California is looking to purchase five
plots in the same industrial park. CEO Tony Circelli said his company
would create a completely indoor hydroponic medical cannabis cultivation
on the property.

"We've been in discussions with municipalities across the state," Circelli
said. "We thought the (Coalinga) council, though they sometimes disagreed,
was ultimately very rational and logical with its discussion and approach
on how to bring this (medical marijuana cultivations) into their town.

"Over time, Coalinga started to grow on us," he added.

Circelli declined to get into financial specifics, as the negotiations
with Coalinga are still ongoing.

Coalinga also is introducing a local ballot initiative to approve medical
marijuana dispensaries. Staffers are working on drafting potential
regulations should that initiative pass.

These steps may seem unnecessary given the possibility of legalization,
but that might not be true.

Lori Ajax, head of the newly formed California Bureau of Medical Cannabis
Regulation, told The Bee this month that state law requires all
dispensaries to have both state and local licenses. Proposition 64 would
legalize recreational use for adults over 21, but Ajax noted that the
state doesn't have a precise plan for regulations should it pass. It's
likely that dual-licensing would still be required.

The federal government remains one of the major clouds looming over
medical marijuana and the prospect of legalization. In July, the Drug
Enforcement Administration reaffirmed marijuana's classification as a
Schedule I narcotic -- the same designation given to heroin and cocaine.

The fine in Fresno County for anyone caught cultivating marijuana in
unincorporated areas.

This classification has been a major talking point for local marijuana
opponents, especially Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims. Law
enforcement, school districts, parks and recreation departments and many
faith-based communities have emerged as major opponents of both medical
marijuana cultivation and Proposition 64.

To that end, the cities of Selma and Kingsburg recently adopted
resolutions opposing it. Interestingly, Coalinga police Chief Michael
Salvador submitted a similar resolution to his council. It was not voted

Selma City Manager/Chief of Police Greg Garner also took another, purely
pragmatic step. The city has established a fee structure for medical
marijuana cultivation permits. New permit applications would cost $1,420
- -- perhaps a nod to 420, a number that users say represents both the best
time of the day to get high or the date (April 20) of an unofficial
holiday in cannabis culture. Permit renewals would be $220.

Garner said the city remains opposed to marijuana in all its forms, but
preparing the fees now would make it much easier for the city to revisit
its current position should Proposition 64 pass.

"We hope to never use them," Garner said of the fees.

In Fresno, city spokesman Mark Standriff said city staff has not been
directed to make or plan for any changes to its medical marijuana
ordinances. Growing operations and dispensaries remain illegal.

Other cities across the county may be talking about medical marijuana
behind closed doors, but it does not appear to have been discussed at any
public meetings. In January, after Coalinga made its first move, all other
cities in Fresno County passed ordinances opposing cultivation and
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