San Jacinto Council hears public opinions on pot

Photo by Kyle Selby/The Valley Chronicle
San Jacinto City Council and public commenters watch as a special viewing of the March 21 Riverside County of Supervisors Proposition 64 Workshop video plays. San Jacinto residents and marijuana cultivators in the audience then had the opportunity to voice their opinions on local regulations and permitting.

■ Kyle Selby / Reporter

California voters passed Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, last November with a 57 percent approval rating. The statewide law has perhaps been the most controversial since its passing, and jurisdictions all over California have been scrambling to keep a lid on the growing cannabis industry. The purpose of the City of San Jacinto’s March 28 marijuana workshop was to address exactly these concerns.
The workshop began with a viewing of the Riverside County of Supervisors’ own Prop 64 Workshop, previously held on March 21. The video covered a summarization of the law, a survey of surrounding counties’ and local cities’ actions, as well as the County’s legal options on Prop 64.
The law was met with a 52.49 percent approval by the County of Riverside, and while many cities are taking advantage of Prop 64 for its revenue benefits, others are simply prohibiting marijuana activities altogether. Locally, cities that have thus permitted and regulated marijuana activities since the passing of Prop 64 include Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs and Perris.
The city of Hemet is categorized as a city that has prohibited medical and non-medical marijuana activities, and is with good company, considering that Banning, Blythe, Canyon Lake, Eastvale, Indian Wells, Jurupa Valley, La Quinta, Moreno Valley, Murrieta, Rancho Mirage and Temecula also have similar bans.
San Jacinto belongs to a much shorter list. While Lake Elsinore, Palm Desert and San Jacinto currently prohibit marijuana activities, these cities are taking action to begin the process to permit and regulate for cannabis cultivation.
Following the video presentation’s conclusion, San Jacinto’s Planning Commission expressed their reasons for their decided denial of cultivation, mainly due to a lack of provided background knowledge. Directly afterward, Councilman Andrew Kotyuk provided an additional presentation outlining the benefits of cultivation, highlighting the city’s overwhelmingly positive response to their Measure AA, a marijuana tax measure passed by San Jacinto voters in November. The Council finally opened its meeting to a very divisive public forum.
“On August 25, I was involved in a car accident,” started the first speaker, 26-year San Jacinto resident Raul Quesada. When the stoplight before him turned green, Quesada says, the pickup truck behind him rear-ended his car. “When I stopped to talk to him, he opened his window, and the only thing I saw was smoke coming out of his vehicle, which of course was marijuana. The damage is more than $11,000, and his insurance only covered $10,000. I had paid for all of this out of my own pocket…Unfortunately I decided to fight it; went through the court system, and of course I won my judgment, but he said he was not going to pay one penny.” Quesada is still fighting the case, and is fearful that drivers under the influence may not only pose a threat to other drivers, but children as well. A local parent shared his concerns.
“I’ve been in the [San Jacinto] Valley for about 20 years,” said Laura Uriarte, a mother of two young children. “My concern is my kids. Money does not solve anything; for me, priority is the family, and family is priceless. I’d rather have money in education than on this.”
Other residents however, saw the opposite side of the spectrum, and believed that marijuana cultivation is long overdue. Ricky Jones, retired Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff, is one example.
“I’ve buried two wives to cancer,” said Jones. His case was made from his experience with the drug Marinol, also known as dronabinol, which is used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. It also includes the active ingredient THC, found in marijuana. He explained that both of his wives received medical marijuana treatment, which dramatically increased their diets, and lengthened their lives
“I’ve done a lot of research in the last 30 years, and what the County didn’t tell you is that they use Colorado as a scare tactic…I’ve talked to their law enforcement, and I’ve talked to their government agents – they have no plan. They just passed it for the money, and it failed. They didn’t talk about the 27 other states that came up with a plan. Nor did they talk about the pharmaceutical companies that are creating drugs to cure Alzheimer’s, or to treat Parkinson’s, and cancer…The government’s opinion on medicine from marijuana plants is not criminal, they’re accepting, because they are finding cures and treatments, better than what’s [out there] today. I hope you will look at the pharmaceutical companies, which created 110 jobs. Once the FDA approves it and are manufacturing it, then you’re going to have national manufacturing of medicine here.”
“No issue is more important to me in this area, more than the non-diversion of medical marijuana to our kids, or other illegal sources,” said Mark Kent, a father, grandfather, and Los Angeles cannabis store owner. “I have cultivations both indoor and outdoor, and with the proper procedures, many of which Mr. Kotyuk mentioned today, I can assure you that there will be no diversion from outdoor, greenhouse, or indoor cultivations, if you set up the proper measures. It is absolutely 100 percent secure, as is a bank.”
Adrian Grant, a local with aspirations in the industry, described his frustration regarding the roadblocks shop owners frequently run into.
“I’ve been trying to open up a legal place for years. Every time you get shut down by code enforcement, for this or that,” explained Grant, who comes from a family of legal professionals. He told Council that he once met with an attorney who specializes in marijuana, who gave him a harsh reality check. “He said, ‘well, basically it’s just whack-a-mole. Open up shop, wait ‘til they come and shut you down, and move on. You’re not going to eradicate them like you guys said…there are law-abiding citizens that believe in this, and we want to do it the right way, but until we get the right infrastructure and the right laws, we won’t be able to.”
Adrian Kwiatkowski and Micah Anderson, San Diego dispensary operator representatives, made their visit to San Jacinto on a potential business investment. “We are here before you because we have property interest here in your city, and we would like to see the City move forward with some sort of regulation and an ordinance to allow for cultivation for medical marijuana purposes,” said Kwiatkowski.
San Diego, riddled with illegal dispensaries, created a process in which heavy regulations would be enforced, limiting only four dispensaries per San Diego’s nine council districts. Armed security guards, Kevlar walls, bulletproof glass and surveillance cameras were just a few of the requirements that came along with them. Kwiatkowski and Anderson already have plans to implement a 44,000-square-foot facility in San Jacinto, which could generate an estimated $1.4 million in tax revenue.
“Consider the fact that the whole nation is dealing with this very issue right now, and there are good conversations on both sides,” said Mayor Scott Miller in closing. The meeting adjourned in honor of the mother of San Jacinto City Manager Robert Johnson’s mother, who passed away just hours prior to the meeting.

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