Riverside Co. - MJ's new BIZ hotspot

 

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Wasn’t all that long ago that Riverside County was arresting and prosecuting medical marijuana patients for growing their own and now they are going full-tilt boogey on allowing commercial businesses to cultivate, process and sell cannabis to anyone over 21.

mj_-page-001.jpgThe original ordinance allowing cannabis businesses was passed last year. It was a convoluted maze of legal and regulatory hoops to jump through being only rivaled in complexity and cost for opening a nuclear power plant.

The original ordinance required a “Request for Proposal” (RFP), a byzantine process requiring multiple filings, cost buckets of money to complete and was a guaranteed full employment program for lawyers. Entailing a ranking system to judge applicants against each other, it created a veritable mountain of paperwork mountain_paperwork.jpgfor the County planning staff that resulted in 71 commercial cannabis operations being proposed. With the RFP process in place, only 24 went forward. As it stands the county has approved only one storefront operation. It has still not opened.

The new ordinance does away with the RFPs and substitutes a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) process which is the same process that any other business needs to complete. CUPs have a 10-year life span and cost a much more reasonable $6,000. Not only is the cost significantly less, but there is considerably less paperwork reducing the workload on the County’s planning staff.

protest-page-001.jpgAlthough attorney’s might be upset in having their full-employment program reduced (not eliminated), the most upset people were those who had already gone through the process. Almost all testimony presented to the BOS in relation to the proposed new ordinance was in opposition by those who had gone through the expensive and time-consuming RFP process and emphatically stated it was unfair that potential competitors would not have to go through the same stress-inducing, anxiety-ridden process.

I was just about the only person who presented testimony in support of discontinuing the RFP process for opening cannabis businesses and replacing it with a CUP stating “Hopefully this will lead to more cannabis businesses which will produce competition and should result in lower prices,”

medical_mj_logo.pngI noted that lower prices are “good as people who use cannabis to treat pain, depression, insomnia and for cancer treatments should not have high costs as an impediment to being able to obtain the quantities needed to treat their ailments.”

I further got on my high horse as I informed the BOS that they should pass the new ordinance as “cannabis must be made more easily available for its most important use as a substitute for alcohol – studies show alcohol consumption goes down when cannabis consumption increases” –referencing the Montana study thatbeer_pot.jpg “found that when marijuana consumption increased after cannabis was legalized medically, alcohol consumption went down leading to a 9% decrease in traffic fatalities.” The next day I sent each member of the BOS a copy of that study which you can read if you CLICK HERE.

perez.jpgIn the discussion that followed by the BOS, Supervisor Manuel Perez noted that "The (ranking process) is a limiting factor. We can continue at a robust pace ... move as quickly as possible (and) make this as streamlined as possible, but still have the quality at the end."

hewitt.jpgSupervisor Jeff Hewitt specifically mentioned the need for the competition I spoke about and then intoned "Let the free market determine how many dispensaries people want. Let's allow the market to determine the winners and losers."

Considering all the opposition voiced at the hearing and the normal reticence the Riverside Co. BOS have expressed in the past regarding anything that makes cannabis more readily available, it was something of a surprise that the ordinance passed 5 – 0.

covid19_pig2.jpgOr was it really such a surprise considering that the County, like all local governments, are reeling from the loss of millions of dollars in tax revenues due to COVID-19 lockdown. I am sure that every BOS member was well aware that more cannabis businesses means more revenue for the now egregiously cash-strapped county.

What is interesting to note is that the original ordinance created a developer-agreement system of taxation which, instead of assessing a sales tax on cannabis, created a community benefit payment which varies from business to business depending on the needs of the community in which it is located. The new ordinance leaves the developer-agreement model in place.

Although I had opposed a developer-agreement model in the original ordinance in favor of the standard tax and license system which is utilized in almost every other ordinance allowing cannabis businesses, I am not so opposed to it anymore. A developer-agreement seems to result in significantly less money being paid by a business to the government then a standard sales tax system would. This would result in significant savings to cannabis businesses. I would caution about holding one’s breath that dispensaries will lower their prices because their taxes are lower.

In any case, I think it is only a matter of time before the Countymoney_wins.jpg ends the developer-agreement model and switches to the tax and regulate model as it will produce significantly more revenue. When push comes to shove money always wins.

Speaking of money always winning, several cities in Riverside County that were always adamantly opposed to cannabis businesses, are following Riverside County's lead in coming around to the greener side. hemetseal.jpgHemet, whose City Council has been and still is composed of majority of retired cops, submitted an initiative in 2016 to deny cannabis businesses in their city when a couple growers collected enough signatures to put a measure on the ballot allowing them. The City Council’s measure passed, but now these ex-cops are starting the process to allow them.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the council directed the city manager to create an ordinance that would allow four sustainable retail cannabis outlets and no more than 10 wholesale outlets. It is interesting to note that the rest of the meeting almost entirely dealt with getting businesses to reopen – including it would seem eventually cannabis businesses.

wildomar_seal.pngThe other city was Wildomar, a small but growing town in southern Riverside County that back in 2012 had requested the Department of Justice take action against the one dispensary that had opened there. The DOJ took action against the dispensary resulting in its closure. Eight years later, Wildomar is considering an ordinance that would establish a regulatory framework for the licensure and operation of cannabis businesses in the city. Money wins again.

Along with the cannabis liberation zone in the Coachella Valley where Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Palm Desert and Coachella have all allowed cannabis businesses to operate, two other cities in western Riverside County, Lake Elsinore and Perris, now permit cannabis businesses to operate. How much this has to do with the economic disaster caused by the COVD-19 pandemic is up for question, but the opening and normalcy of cannabis businesses is a green-lining that no one expected.

dr_bearman.jpgMeet and chat with medical marijuana pioneering MD          Dr. David Bearman

MAPP teleconference Saturday, June 6 at 1 p.m.

On Saturday, June 6 at 1 p.m., MAPP will hold its monthly teleconference meeting with famed medical marijuana practitioner, author and clinician Dr. David Bearman. Information on Dr. Bearman is below who will be discussing the past and current state of medical marijuana use and explain the newest developments in not only the use of cannabis for therapeutic relief, but also as a curative. Most importantly, there will be plenty of time for you to ask questions and get the answers you want to know.

story-page-001.jpgAlong with being one of the earliest medical doctors in California to furnish mmj recommendations (Dr. Bearman wrote the recommendation for celebrated comedian Rodney “I don’t get no respect” Dangerfield) Dr. Bearman is the author of Drugs Are NOT the Devil’s Tools: How Discrimination and Greed Created a Dysfunctional Drug Policy and How It Can Be Fixed.

One of the most clinically knowledgeable physicians in the U.S. in the field of medicinal marijuana, Dr. Bearman has spent 40 years working in substance and drug abuse treatment and prevention programs.  A pioneer in the free and community clinic movement, his career includes public health, administrative medicine, provision of primary care, pain management and cannabinology.

AACM.pngAlong with being the vice-president of the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine, his 40 year professional experience in the drug abuse treatment and prevention field includes being the Co-Director of the Haight-Ashbury Drug Treatment Program, being a member of Governor Reagan’s Inter Agency Task Force on Drug Abuse and a consultant to Hoffman-LaRoche, Santa Barbara County Schools and the National PTA. He has been recognized by the Santa Barbara Medical Society with the Humanitarian Recognition Award.

conference_call-page-001.jpgJoining the teleconference with Dr. Bearman is exceptionally easy. It is not a zoom conference with cams and associated paraphernalia, so you can really come as you are as it is done entirely on the phone – no computer needed. This Saturday, June 6 at 1 p.m. call 701-802-5390 and when the voice prompts you, enter the access code 2545046# and you will be whisked into the MAPP teleconference with Dr. Bearman. Although not mandatory, smoking and the consumption of other forms of cannabis during the teleconference is not only allowed, it is encouraged.

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