California Roundup: General, Half Moon Bay, Kern County / City of Ridgecrest



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Half Moon Bay considers expanding pot rules

Meetings to help decide if coastal greenhouses could host commercial cultivation, possibly sales

As summer draws to an end and the clock ticks toward a new year, cities across California are hustling to outline regulations on marijuana as the state is expected to start issuing commercial licenses in 2018.
Across San Mateo County, the coastside is becoming one of the more welcoming regions to commercial operations with marijuana cultivation rising to the top of possibilities.
In Half Moon Bay, voters overwhelmingly approved legalizing marijuana during the Proposition 64 election last year, and the city is now moving to legalize indoor pot growing. In the coming weeks, the city is looking to gauge the community’s temperament on commercial operations such as cultivation and potentially sales inside greenhouses in the coastal town.
“We think it could be well regulated and contained, it could be good business for the city,” said Mayor Debbie Ruddock. “We’re hopeful we can do it in a way that helps the city economically, while protecting the public from the social impacts and the environmental impacts. These operations are not without environmental impacts, so we have to pay heed to this too. Staff is working hard to address these issues.”
The city could become one of the first in San Mateo County to approve agricultural businesses as state officials aim to draft a licensing system next year to meet requirements outlined by the landmark law legalizing recreational marijuana for adults.
Half Moon Bay has spent months considering what type of commercial operations to allow and opted to focus on cultivation in a city with deep agricultural roots. As greenhouse operations face steep international competition in the cut flower industry, many hope marijuana cultivation could have the power to revive dwindling agricultural operations.



The furor over whether to allow a casino within city limits died down when council voted in the affirmative, but a controversial new issue has arisen. Should Kern County (and eventually the city of Ridgecrest) ban commercial cannabis businesses or allow, regulate and tax them?
Whatever the county and the city decide, people will still have the right to use medical marijuana (if 18 or over and holding a medical marijuana card) and recreational marijuana (if 21 or over). After Jan. 1, they will be able to purchase it legally in areas of California that have decided to allow for commercial retail sales. Kern County and Ridgecrest are in the process of deciding if they will be among those areas.
As currently written, the Kern County ban ordinance would allow the 22 dispensaries that are currently operating prior to a 2016 moratorium in the county to have a year to wind everything down. All other dispensaries operating illegally in the county would be required to shut down immediately.

City staff supports county ban, but will council agree?
When the city council meets tonight, one of the topics they will take on is whether to send a letter to Kern County supporting a ban on commercial marijuana cultivation and sales in unincorporated areas of the county. Proposition 64 legalized possession of less than one ounce for personal recreational use for adults 21 and over, as well cultivation for personal use. However, it also gave local governments the options of either banning cannabis businesses or allowing, regulating and taxing them.
Kern County is weighing two options: banning all commercial cannabis activities (Option A) or regulating them (Option B). The decision is likely to be made by the Board of Supervisors in October or November. City staff is recommending council support Option A, banning all cannabis production, sale and products and send a letter to that effect to the Kern County Planning Commission.
According to a staff report submitted by acting Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin, staff believes allowing and regulating marijuana could lead to increased violent crime in the area; easier access to marijuana by area youth; easier access to marijuana by the motoring public, leading to the possibility of more DUIs; potential negative impacts on the area’s groundwater supply and power grid; and lack of revenue to mitigate these problems.
Specifically, the staff report cites concerns over potential increased cost to area law enforcement to deal with issues related to commercial cultivation and retail sales, as well as concerns over law enforcement’s ability to do so.
“Cannabis cultivation, production, and sales is primarily a ‘cash and carry’ business. Due to issues relating to banking, a large number of marijuana dispensaries and stores do not use standard banking practices. Discussions with investigators with the California Narcotics Officers Association have shown a higher propensity of robberies and violent crimes at dispensaries and marijuana cultivation sites in Northern California . . . Due to the current economic climate in Kern County, law enforcement resources in the Indian Wells Valley are spread extremely thin. Increased crime to our City and the outlying areas is expected if commercial marijuana businesses are allowed to operate. This will have a significant impact to the City of Ridgecrest’s ability to provide police services to our residents as well as the Kern County Sheriff’s Office ability to provide adequate law enforcement services to the county residents,” according to the report.

The two-page staff report also cites numerous statistics, purportedly showing the negative impacts of regulated marijuana. According to the report, these range from increased crimes, including car thefts and murder; an increase in a local “black market;” increases in traffic deaths; and increases in emergency room admissions and poison control services in areas that have legalized marijuana.

City Manager Ron Strand supports ban
Interim City Manager and former Ridgecrest Chief of Police Ron Strand sat down with the Daily Independent Tuesday to talk about the issue.
Strand said the reasons for recommending a ban are numerous. First off, marijuana use remains a federal crime and is thus forbidden for employees of the area’s number one employer, the base. Strand said numerous employers in the area also have similar policies.
″[When] major employers have restrictions against marijuana usage it doesn’t make any sense bringing marijuana into the valley,” he said.
Strand said that the marijuana industry also causes other problems.

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