SJ City Council struggles with marijuana ordinance

Mayor Miller demands detailed plan or it’s dead in the water

Photo by Matt McPherson
San Jacinto resident Andy Minor addresses the San Jacinto City Council during a special meeting to discuss the city’s marijuana ordinance.

■ By Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter

A special meeting of the San Jacinto City Council saw a lot of talking, but no voting on a proposed ordinance covering the location, growth and distribution of cannabis. The council has approved the legalization, cultivation and sale of medical cannabis, but after numerous meetings on the subject, have not come to any final conclusions as to how it will be regulated.
A number of growers and dealers from Colorado, Washington and California spoke as to how their particular methods of conducting business would be best for San Jacinto. It was rather obvious to all in attendance that the big money guys have an inside as to what’s going to come down. You ain’t gonna see no mom-and-pop producers in this mix, that’s for sure. It is all about big financial backing. The illegal stuff will no doubt continue pretty much as bootlegging did during prohibition.
Andy Minor, son of a local potato empire family, spoke eloquently about the situation, and felt that cannabis cultivation will become a large source of tax income for the city.
“We already have lots of illegal pot manufacturing and sales,” said Minor. “It will be most important that production be regulated.”
One speaker claimed he is the CEO of a 300,000 square foot facility and an expert in the growing and processing of marijuana and supports outdoor cultivation.
Others rambled on through the evening and it was obvious to anyone with half a brain that most of these guys were more interested in making money than guaranteeing a clean and healthy medical marijuana crop.
A gentleman who identified himself as “Wayne” continued to argue with Mayor Scott Miller beyond his three-minute time limit and was shut down by Miller, who was apparently irritated with the speaker. That same speaker, just weeks before, nearly came to fisticuffs with Mayor Pro Tem Alonso Ledezma.
Miller allocated each council person all the time needed to speak regarding the ordinance and a healthy discussion followed. A good deal of time was spent on the size of a marijuana production site. Acre or half acre? Would half an acre handle all the parking, along with a 10,000-square-foot building? Questions continued, but it was pretty much decided that any marijuana production would take place in a light industrial area, away from schools and parks.
Ledezma spoke on behalf of his constituency and stated any ordinance he votes for will require all new buildings in any area where cannabis is cultivated, experimented with or dispensed.
“I am here to represent the rest of our citizens who are wondering ‘what’s next?’ We’ve already approved outdoor cultivation. Will there now be dispensaries? It isn’t going to stop,” said Ledezma. “We will need more deputies to make sure everything is secure.”
Councilman Andrew Kotyuk primary concern is to keep the community and the growing of cannabis safe.
“The City of San Jacinto voted for Proposition 64. So what do we want? First, to keep it safe. Also, we must have a track-and-trace policy in place,” said Kotyuk. “We know it will be grown in homes. How do we make sure it is done safely and within the amount allowed by law? More police will be required on the streets.”
Facility security was of prime concern. Key codes, cameras, onsite security and numerous other safety measures were discussed as requirements. Councilwoman Crystal Ruiz had the most sensible thought of the evening.
“Every activity here should be above board and respectful of the community,” stated Ruiz. “Operations regarding cannabis should not be approved anywhere except in light industrial zones. It should be run like a business.”
The city attorney and city manager were given instructions to bring back an amended proposal, with adjustments at the next meeting. Before closing the session, Mayor Miller dropped a delayed bombshell on the council.
“From the very beginning I have asked for a plan…a plan to deal with an ordinance to do this thing,” said Miller. “How many more cops will we need? Codes? Who is going to pay for this? It is going to cost a lot of money and I am telling everyone that I will not sign another ordinance or anything else about this until I see a plan to finance and control it.
“This is a new industry with which we are not familiar,” continued Miller. “We must have a plan to execute it. Again, I am letting everyone know that I will not sign any new ordinance until there is a plan that I approve of. Where is the plan?”
That brought on a lot of mumbling within the council. Councilwoman Ruiz pretty much summed up the rest of the council’s thoughts. “This is the first I’ve heard of this. We will need some time.”
Kotyuk allowed that he, too, had been advocating for a plan from the beginning.
The council adjourned at 9:05 p.m. with little or nothing agreed to except to go back to the various commissions for something to be brought to the next hearing.
As an observer I found it interesting as to how the cities of Hemet and San Jacinto conduct their council meetings. In Hemet, with some exceptions, the questioning of staff and others is somewhat lackadaisical for the most part, if it happens at all. It is just the opposite in San Jacinto. They challenge each other in a good old fashioned debate manner.
One thing for sure, you don’t nod off during their meetings.

Just sayin’.

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