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riverside county marijuana growing laws

Under the new ordinance, registration and licensing will continue through TLMA with the following requirements:

The Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a series of regulations on where and how hemp growers can operate in unincorporated areas of Riverside County, prohibiting grows where water availability is already a challenge.

The Industrial Hemp Cultivation & Manufacturing Ordinance was passed following a 90-minute hearing in which water, property setbacks and whether current growers should be “grandfathered” in to the regulatory scheme were all debated.

The space encompasses parts of the Eastern Municipal and Western Municipal water districts, as well as all of the Rancho California Water District. However, there are several pockets carved out and authorized for cultivation, as long as permit applicants have ready access to a well or can obtain a “will serve” letter from a water supplier guaranteeing that they will receive sufficient flow to sustain their grow.

“We cannot allow groundwater basins to be depleted under any circumstance,” Supervisor Kevin Jeffries said. “That would be devastating to a community.”

“This affects everyone in the county,” said Nuevo resident Claude Trout. “Think about everyone in the county, not just the few entrepreneurs who will be coming in to cultivate. This isn’t for the majority of residents.”

The size of grows could be anywhere from five to over 160 acres, depending on where they’re situated.

Advocates of hemp production and research say its properties have proven benefits in treating some skin and heart disorders. It’s also used in clothing and other commercial applications.

Its results in tougher competition for the legal market because the product is cheaper, Kane said. While the legal industry tries to market its product based around the “clean” nature, and the significant testing that is done on products, consumers may go where they can find the cheapest product, she said.

They’ve pressed on even as the state has opened up to legal operations with the licensed and taxed industry.

In addition to addressing safety concerns, Becerra said removing illegal cannabis grow operations is paramount for environmental preservation.

Becerra: Raids bolster land preservation

“In one site within a grow complex, you could have 29 billion gallons of water being poached,” Becerra said. “And when you have 10 sites within the same complex, that’s a lot of water.”

“We share a common goal with the attorney general and the state, which is to improve public safety and protect our nation’s important public lands,” she said.

Why crack down on the illegal market?

Though the state’s northern counties are typically expected to have the most illicit cannabis grow activity, California Department of Justice Commander Jack Nelson said the high amount of plants seized in Riverside County this year is due to the presence of large-scale grow operations in the Anza area.

This year’s raids resulted in 140 arrests, and 174 weapons seized.

“This is a big change for the city of Riverside,” Hunter said.

Meanwhile, a group is preparing to circulate a petition to qualify a citizen initiative for the ballot to repeal Riverside’s ban.

Council Member and committee member Erin Edwards said the idea of ending the prohibition came up often when she campaigned for the Ward 1 seat in 2019.

A Riverside City Council committee is looking to open the door to 14 marijuana storefronts in the city of about 315,000 residents and place a measure on the November 2022 ballot to tax their sales. Council Member Ronaldo Fierro, the committee chair, said the tax could be in the 3% to 5% range.

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Five years after passage of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use in California, the Inland Empire’s largest city still bans cannabis shops.

City Clerk Donesia Gause said in an email that the proponent authorized Ryan Fischer and Dorothy Groza to act on his behalf. Fischer and Groza could not be reached for comment.

“We’re the biggest city in the region,” he said. “We’re the economic center of the region.”

Riverside has an opportunity to develop a thoughtful policy based on research and input from residents, he said, and waiting longer would result in the ban being overturned anyway — and a marijuana-entrepreneur-led initiative setting the rules for the industry.

City government also has the potential to reap significant tax revenue, given the size of the Riverside market, Fierro said.