Pubdate: Sun, 12 Nov 2017
Source: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Copyright: 2017 The Press-Enterprise Company
Author: Brian Whitehead


A citizens committee in Colton has launched an initiative to regulate
and tax local cannabis cultivation, manufacturing and distribution in
order to generate millions of dollars in revenue for law enforcement,
schools and public safety programs.

The Committee for Safer Neighborhoods and Schools recently filed its
proposed marijuana ordinance with the city and will soon begin
gathering signatures for placement on the 2018 ballot.

Meanwhile, the Colton City Council awaits a drafted ordinance of
potential regulations recommended by a committee of city leaders and
other representatives.

Ben Eilenberg, who represents the citizens committee, said his
clients' ordinance would qualify Colton for state grant funding and
bring in additional tax revenue without having to put a measure before
voters, as cities must do when proposing new taxes.

Early drafts of the city's ordinance prohibit business owners from
applying for a dispensary permit, thus disqualifying Colton from
potential state grants even if it does allow personal growing,
Eilenberg said. Business owners can apply for such permits under the
citizen-led initiative, though marijuana shops could only open in
certain areas of town far from residences, schools and other sensitive

"We tried to be very sensitive to the fact that this is an issue that
people are figuring out how to live with as neighbors," Eilenberg
said. "And the last thing anyone needs is for this to impact their
home, to impact their community."

The citizens' ordinance calls for a $250 application fee for fledgling
businesses, as well as annual $5-per-square-foot permit fees for
recreational cultivation, manufacturing and distribution. Businesses
would also pay $100 annually per distribution truck.

After voters passed Proposition 64 last year, the Colton City Council
approved a temporary ban of all cannabis activities locally with the
goal of establishing a permanent plan by the end of this year.

In February, the council directed City Manager Bill Smith to explore
potential pros and cons of regulating cultivation and manufacturing. A
city-backed committee was later formed to develop recommendations for
a city law.

Any cannabis ordinance would require approval from the city Planning
Commission and council, with a proposed tax needing voter approval
before implementation.

Colton's willingness to consider regulating marijuana locally prompted
the citizens committee to draft its ordinance, Eilenberg said. "They
see this as an opportunity to work with the city rather than force
their way into something the city doesn't want."

City officials could not be reached for comment.

Proponents of the citizens initiative seek to protect the public
health and safety through reasonable limitations; create regulations
that accommodate Colton residents and businesses; provide a means to
allow marijuana activities covered under Proposition 64; bring jobs to
the city; and generate tens of million of dollars in annual revenue
for public services.

Ideally, Eilenberg said, the group gathers enough signatures to prompt
an adoption of its ordinance by the City Council. In that case, Colton
would not incur the costs of a special election and start generating
new tax revenue right away, Eilenberg said.

Though the state can begin awarding marijuana licenses on Jan. 1, no
business will be able to get one for any type of marijuana activity
without first showing proof of having a local license.

"This is not the marijuana industry trying to come in and turn Colton
into a marijuana center," Eilenberg said. "This is much more about
wanting to maximize Colton's tax revenue and state grant funding if
it's going down the path of allowing cannabis in town.

"We really don't see this as being adversarial," Eilenberg added.
"It's a competing implementation that the city may decide is better.
It's not a fight."
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