Pubdate: Sat, 22 Jul 2017
Source: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Copyright: 2017 The Press-Enterprise Company
Column: The Cannifornian
Author: Alicia Robinson


Riverside has long prohibited medical marijuana dispensaries. Now
officials may add recreational pot businesses to the ban -- at least

Since November, when California voters legalized adult use of
marijuana, the Riverside City Council has not decided whether to
allow, tax and regulate pot cultivation, manufacturing and sales.

On Tuesday, July 25, council members will consider saying no to pot
businesses until they have more information on how state regulations
will look and what other Inland and Southern California communities
are doing.

City officials are proposing a moratorium on recreational pot
businesses until rules are created to them. A city report doesn't
specify the length of the moratorium, but the law says such bans can
last up to two years.

"This is a moving target statewide," City Manager John Russo said
Friday, July 21. "Given that the voters in Riverside had voted against
medical dispensaries (in 2015), my general sort of advice and
direction has been to go slow and see what others are doing."

He also noted that city voters in November favored the statewide
legalization measure, which could be seen as a mixed message.

A consultant told Riverside officials earlier this year that the city
could collect millions in revenue by licensing a limited number of pot
shops and growing operations. Any tax proposal and some other pot
regulations would require a public vote.

As officials consider whether to ban all pot-related businesses
permanently or just until they can draft a set of regulations,
residents and interest groups are likely to weigh in.

Already the California Professional Firefighters, a statewide
professional organization, wrote a letter urging Riverside officials
to consider the increased demands pot businesses would place on police
and firefighters.

Tim Strack, who heads the Riverside City Firefighters Association and
is a district vice president for the state firefighters group, said
the issue hasn't been discussed by the local union. But it will be, he

The biggest concern for firefighters is honey oil labs, which use
chemicals to extract THC, the main psychoactive drug in cannabis, he
said. The labs are volatile and can explode.

The fire department also would need more inspectors to visit new pot
stores and grow operations, not to mention the impact on code
enforcement and police, he said.

The state firefighters group's letter doesn't explicitly support or
oppose marijuana businesses, but it suggests that if they are allowed,
any taxes and fees they generate could help pay for additional public
safety services.

Some council members have said they oppose any marijuana businesses in
the city, but others have indicated they're potentially open to the
concept with the proper regulations.

Russo has previously spoken in favor of legalizing the drug, but in
his prior role as Oakland city attorney, he refused to advise the
council on how to allow pot businesses to open after state voters
rejected a 2010 legalization measure.

Those past stances are now irrelevant, Russo said, because he takes
direction from the Riverside City Council, and "their position is my

Council members appear divided on the issue and it's unclear which
direction they'll go, Russo said. While they may give general
direction Tuesday, he said, it could be several months before a firm
policy decision is made.
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