Pubdate: Tue, 20 Mar 2018
Source: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Copyright: 2018 The Press-Enterprise Company
Author: David Downey


Moreno Valley officials have set the stage for a range of legal
marijuana businesses to open in Riverside County's second-largest city
while limiting the number of commercial pot enterprises to 27 -- eight
of them dispensaries.

The widely anticipated move, approved Tuesday, March 20, comes as the
city is working to shut down illegal pot stores.

City Attorney Martin Koczanowicz said that since last summer the city
has discovered 20 dispensaries operating illegally in Moreno Valley
and closed 15. It's now working to eliminate the other five.

Though recreational marijuana has been legal in California since Jan.
1, Moreno Valley had yet to issue a permit because it was still
working on a regulatory package.

In adopting the package of ordinances and resolutions on Tuesday,
however, the Moreno Valley City Council paved the way for rolling out
one of the more permissive marijuana programs in the Inland Empire.
The council voted 4-1 to pass the measures, with Councilman Jeffrey
Giba voting no.

The council set caps on the number of firms that may receive permits
to operate in each of six business categories, and limited them to
certain commercial, industrial and business-park zones.

The council rejected a call from public speakers to increase the total
number of allowable dispensaries, and decided to shave city officials'
proposed target of 10 dispensaries to eight, at the suggestion of
Councilman Ulises Cabrera.

The council is expected to give the final green light to the measures
in two weeks.

In anticipation of approval, city officials said they intend to accept
online applications from prospective operators April 2 through May 11
and then begin reviewing applications.

On Tuesday, the council agreed to contract with HdL Companies of
Diamond Bar, which has experience administering marijuana programs in
California, Colorado and Washington, to run Moreno Valley's program.
The city agreed to pay the firm $167,250 for the balance of the fiscal
year that runs through June, and $281,000 annually the next four years.

A companion land use ordinance allows up to eight dispensaries, eight
cultivation facilities, five manufacturing plants, two testing
facilities, two distribution centers and two cannabis microbusinesses.
The latter would be small, one-stop shops that have at least three of
four types of marijuana operations: cultivation, manufacturing,
dispensary and distribution.

"It's my understanding," Councilwoman Victoria Baca said, "that these
microbusinesses are going to be like an Apple store. That's how classy
they are going to be."

Cultivation, manufacturing and testing operations would be restricted
to business park and light industrial zones along the south side of
the 60 Freeway between Moreno Beach Drive and Theodore Street, the
east side of the 215 Freeway and the north side of Cactus Avenue
between the 215 and Heacock Street.

Other types of businesses could locate in commercial zones along
freeways and major streets, such as Alessandro Boulevard and Perris

On the other hand, pot enterprises may not set up in areas within 600
feet of schools, day care centers, youth centers and other sensitive
land uses, said Richard Sandzimier, acting community development
director. That, a city report states, leaves about 1,450 acres in
various zones eligible for marijuana businesses.

Before they may open, businesses must obtain conditional use and
commercial cannabis business permits from the city, and a state
license. There are extensive conditions, including posting security
guards, officials said. Marijuana growing operations are permitted
only indoors, and plants must be hidden from view.

Prospective operators also face an annual permitting fee of

Some of the 13 public speakers who addressed the plan Tuesday,
including Alfie Hernandez, thought the fee was too high.

"This program is going to crash and burn before it even gets off its
feet," Hernandez said.

Roy Bleckert warned that "if you overtax it ... you will strengthen
the black market and you will not have the legal businesses get a
foothold. You will kill an industry."

Council members said the fee is designed only to recoup the city's

However, later this spring the council is expected to take up a
proposal to ask voters in November to tax marijuana businesses.
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