Close attention will be paid to outdoor grows
■ Kyle Selby / Reporter
San Jacinto’s City Council chambers were packed with local and outside residents May 16, eagerly awaiting the decisions of the Council, and what they will be doing with the commercial marijuana cultivation in the IL – Light Industrial Zone, an approximate 2,000-acre area west of Sanderson Avenue and north of Cottonwood Avenue.
Nearly two full hours of public comments stemmed from the discussion, all very similar to the last two months’ of City Council meetings: a majority of the public cried out in opposition to commercial outdoor grows, while a smaller faction spoke about the benefits of cannabis coming to town. The competing arguments came down to whether the city really needs marijuana’s medicinal and sizable revenue services, or whether they need to keep children safe from the harm the crop could potentially invite.
Regulations needed to ensure safety
Others, like Joelle Aguilar, a medical cannabis patient and Humbolt State University student who uses cannabis to ease her migraine pain, argues that the safety should lie within the crop itself.
“I am here to advocate the regulation of it,” she said. “I am concerned with what I’m putting in my body, and I think if I’m going to use it like other people use prescribed medical drugs, then I should know where it’s coming from, what’s in it, and I just want to feel safe. It’s my only option.”
Maria Solorio, member of Diamond Hispanics Network, which helps high school kids attain scholarships, who spoke with the aid of a translator: “Most of the people in San Jacinto don’t know what’s going on with the cultivation in the city. I called pastors, and everybody I knew, but nobody knew this was going on.”
“You’re going to continue to fuel the black market if you don’t put something in place,” said Jem Montes, founder of Inland Empire Normal, a national marijuana advocacy group. “By putting something in place, you do have the ability to say how it’s going to play out.”
Jay Pierce, president of JD Pierce Company, who has built more than 300 homes in San Jacinto, owns property near the cultivation site.
“What I have found in talking to the people that are investing in my projects, and investing with me in the property, is that this is going to be a big business, and it’s going to be a profitable business,” said Pierce. “The most interesting thing that I’ve found is that the people that are putting a lot of money into it aren’t particularly interested in smoking, they’re more interested in the medical aspects of it; the oils and products that are created, that can be used in medicines and other food additives.”
Approvals, code enforcement & oversight
Ultimately, after much discussion, the City Council approved the following areas of concern they originally had during the April 27 workshop: Minimum lot size is one acre, limiting the number of permitted facilities to three indoor/ three outdoor, limiting indoor cultivation area to 22,000 square feet on the same parcel/lot, not allowing any dispensaries, limiting indoor cultivation to certain light industrial zones, and remaining consistent with state law with the proposed regulations.
“Obviously what’s a part of all of this is regulatory enforcement, and auditing on a regular basis, which is part of the program we’re putting together,” ensured Mayor Scott Miller.
Miller recently introduced his infamous “manifesto” at a workshop prior to Tuesday, which would essentially integrate a “cannabis program” designed to coordinate with the police department, code enforcement, and an appointed cannabis oversight committee to strengthen his confidence in allowing the cannabis industry into the city. He repeatedly expressed that he is still waiting for those developments to come into place.
The following Thursday, the City Council held yet another cannabis workshop – this time specifically for outdoor cultivation. Not far into the discussion, the Council became divided rather quickly.
Utz apologizes for unintentional insult
Everyone seemed to have a bone to pick with City Councilman Russ Utz, who seemingly accidentally slammed several members of the public, “disrespecting” them for being uninformed.
“A lot of [the public’s] concerns are not based on science, they’re based on morals, and the things that we talk about to reinforce our morals instead of what’s really happening in the public,” said Utz.
Quick to express his disappointment hot on the heels of Utz’ comments, Mayor Miller, along with City Councilwoman Crystal Ruiz, and Mayor Pro Tem Alonso Ledezma scolded him for offending members who have spoken at past meetings and workshops.
“I want a strategic city-wide plan, to ensure that our folks that live in this city are not negatively impacted by the cannabis industry,” asserted Mayor Miller, accusing Utz of twisting his words. “That’s what I’ve been asking for since day one.”
After being berated by nearly the entirety of the Council, Utz respectfully apologized for his misdirected remarks.
David Dannon, well-established cultivator of Integrated Farms, presented the Council with some images of his facilities, as well as the detailing the work force specifics. As an example, it would take about $2.5 million for a four-acre facility “to get going,” which would consist of between 30-35 full-time employees, as well as engineers and a separate part-time force.
Kotyuk speaks his mind
After a period of remaining silent, Councilman Andrew Kotyuk finally indicated his impatience for the delay of the cannabis ordinance implementations.
“To continually say that staff isn’t doing something, or we’ve been asking for it – that’s on us,” explained Kotyuk. “We know that if we ask for something and make it a priority, and the five of us agree to it, it’s going to happen. Quite frankly, I’m tired of workshops.”
Kotyuk made reference to the troubles other neighboring cities are experiencing because of their habitual delays in moving motions.
“I’ve already seen more issues occurring in the city – our neighbor to the south, after they passed a $10 million a year sales tax revenue issue…Guys, the longer we wait, the longer it’s going to take for us to get back up to speed, and more [public safety incidents] are going to be shoveled on us in between…other people are having press releases about a ‘War on Crime,’” he said in closing. “We certainly aren’t.”
Miller stands his ground
Miller, however would not budge, and reinforced that he would not make any further motions until the council has a comprehensive workshop on the topic of outdoor cultivation, and that it not be decided in a “quick vote” during a council meeting.
“I am advocating that we pause what we’re doing, to ensure that we have our game plan in place before we move forward,” said Mayor Miller. “I will not change my position, I am committed to this; I understand that this is a one-time opportunity to ensure that the right things happen during this process.”