Pubdate: Wed, 28 Mar 2018
Source: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Copyright: 2018 The Press-Enterprise Company
Author: Ryan Hagen


The Riverside City Council voted Tuesday, March 27, to have staff
members prepare an expansive ban on marijuana-related activities.

The ban, which must be approved as a city ordinance before it takes
effect, would replace Riverside's current moratorium that temporarily
bans most marijuana business.

Councilman Chuck Conder proposed the ban, which would prohibit the
retail and commercial sale, commercial cultivation, distribution, and
outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana plants. He did so after a
delegation of city officials who traveled to Denver, including Conder
himself, gave a three-hour presentation on the effects of marijuana
legalization there.

"Abraham Lincoln once said that important principles may and must be
inflexible," said Conder, who went to Denver with Councilman Steve
Adams, Riverside Unified School District officials, a Riverside police
captain and an assistant city attorney. "Sure, we can have this in
Riverside, but at what cost to our city's moral and our city's soul?"

The vote to write the ban was 5-2, with Councilmen Andy Melendrez and
Mike Soubirous opposing it.

Melendrez spoke of the needs of severely injured people such as
veterans who are damaging their bodies with opioids when, he said,
medical marijuana would ease their pain and post-traumatic stress
without the same side effects.

Soubirous said the city should extend its moratorium while working on
a compromise marijuana measure, because he expects a pro-marijuana
group to respond to a ban by campaigning for a ballot measure that
would allow even more marijuana businesses.

"Be prepared to have it imposed on someone else's rules, not what's
best for the city," Soubirous said.

While Californians have been free to carry up to an ounce of marijuana
and consume it in private since Proposition 64 passed in November
2016, state law gives local governments full authority to regulate or
ban most other marijuana activity in their borders. Many Inland Empire
cities have such a ban, while others -- including neighboring Moreno
Valley -- have much more permissive policies.

The presentation on the effects of marijuana legalization in Denver
focused on the costs of enforcing the rules that govern marijuana
growth and sales, such as how much may be grown and where.

Voters expected that legalizing marijuana would dramatically reduce
the cost of marijuana law enforcement, freeing up those resources to
focus on other crimes. But the number of police devoted to marijuana
increased from one sergeant and four detectives before recreational
marijuana was legally sold in 2014 to one lieutenant, three sergeants
and 17 detectives today, Denver Police Lt. Andrew Howard said.

Most of their time is spent responding to citizen complaints about
home grows, which often include unsafe conditions and often produce
marijuana illegally and sell it in other states where it's illegal and
therefore more expensive, Howard told the Riverside City Council.

"Since legalization, we have seen a large increase in the illegal
market in Colorado," he said.

Riverside's temporary ban on most marijuana, most recently extended in
October, is set to expire in September 2018. The City Council could
extend it for up to another year.

A majority of Riverside voters supported Prop. 64, the 2016 state
initiative that legalized marijuana, in every ward except Ward 4,
which is represented by Conder.

Riverside has banned dispensaries since 2007, and as of May 2017
officials had shut down all of the dispensaries in the city.
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