Pubdate: Sat, 23 Sep 2017
Source: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Copyright: 2017 The Press-Enterprise Company
Author: Craig Shultz


When more cannabis businesses begin operating in San Jacinto,
Councilman Andrew Kotyuk said residents don't need to be struck with a
case of reefer madness.

"This is not Cheech and Chong," Kotyuk said. "This is a biotech
doctorate and masters who work with highly trained technicians in a
medical environment."

The City Council voted last week to increase the number of cannabis
businesses from six to 16.

San Jacinto already has given preliminary approval to three license
requests for outdoor cultivation and three more for indoor, which had
been the limit. Those have gone to five companies, one that applied
for both indoor and outdoor operations.

But with more companies wanting to come, those limits were raised to
eight each in a 3-2 vote of the City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 19.
Kotyuk, Crystal Ruiz and Russ Utz approved the increase. Scott Miller
and Alonso Ledezma voted against it.

San Jacinto has taken the lead among Inland cities when it comes to
Prop. 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in California. Local
voters approved taxing cannabis, and city leaders have spent more than
a year crafting ordinances.

Specific areas have been set aside for both indoor and outdoor
cultivation and extra police will be hired."This is not Cheech and
Chong," San Jacinto City Councilman Andrew Kotyuk said about cannabis
companies wanting to operate in the city. "This is a biotech doctorate
and masters who work with highly trained technicians in a medical

The next big debate will come over dispensaries. Currently, there is
no provision to allow commercial sales of marijuana, something Kotyuk
wants to change.

"That's an ongoing business in the city that's costing us additional
expenses," Kotyuk said. "They're not being regulated. They're not
being taxed."

He said licensing dispensaries will make it easier to shut down
illegal operations.

During a workshop Monday, Sept. 18, cannabis business operators gave a
plea for dispensaries as they touted the medical benefits of marijuana
and the safety of their facilities.

"Don't fall victim to the stigma of dispensaries," Christopher Henry,
from SC4, the Southern California Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, told
the council.

The need for more licenses came because of demand. The requests came
from companies that operate elsewhere in California or in other states.

"We felt eight and eight was a comfortable number," Kotyuk said,
saying infrastructure is in place to handle the increase.

More permits mean more revenue for San Jacinto, which not long ago
closed its parks and shuttered a fire station -- all of which have
been reopened. The fee just to apply is $16,500.

Kotyuk said some of the businesses could be in operation by the end of
the year, especially outdoor operators who work from greenhouses and
don't have to construct large facilities.

But not everyone is in favor of more licenses.

Ledezma, who has been against cannabis businesses from the start and
did not attend the workshop, wrote a letter to his colleagues saying
he did not want any increases.

"Please touch your head and think the damage that we are about to
cause to this city," he wrote.

"I don't see anybody speaking on behalf of our youth," he said. "I
don't see anybody speaking on behalf of our community."

He asked that cannabis businesses put money aside for education about
the negative effects of illicit drugs, something operators said they

Despite the year-long efforts, marijuana laws continue to be a moving
target. Operators and cities are waiting for definitive rules from the
state and marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

"There are a lot of changes all the time," San Jacinto City Manager
Rob Johnson said. "We're trying to keep ahead of those."
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