Hanford bucked the trend and became the first major town in the Central Valley to allow the commercial cultivation of pot. The next closest location is the small town of Coalinga in Fresno County.
The Hanford City Council voted 5-0 on July 6 for an ordinance change in their General Plan to allow the production of medical marijuana. Caliva, a San Jose-based marijuana growing business, has been encouraging the city council to get its ordinance changed in a timely manner so businesses can get the necessary permits from the state in 2018.
California is only allowing a certain number of pot cultivation business licenses and the first priority will go to companies with a local permit in hand.
Hanford’s new ordinance maintains the ban on pot dispensaries. Caliva’s, or other prospective companies, final product will be shipped out of town to be sold in other parts of the state.
The new Hanford ordinance overturns a prior ban that specifically prohibited the cultivation of pot. The Kings County Sheriff, Dave Robinson, maintained his objection during the meeting pointing out that the drug is still federally illegal and issuing permits to allow for commercial cultivation is against federal law.
Hanford aims to reap the benefits of being the only large town to allow the cultivation of pot. All major cities in the Central Valley have voted to ban it such as Fresno, Sanger, Clovis, Porterville, Reedley and Lemoore, leaving open an opportunity for small towns to make some needed extra revenue.
Visalia has delayed its decision for six months.
Proposition 64, passed last November, allows anyone over 21 to buy up to an ounce of marijuana from a licensed dispensary. The proposition allows the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants inside a private residence. Each city or county, though, can decide on whether to allow commercial cultivation or pot dispensaries.
According to the Hanford Sentinel, Caliva wants to locate a 400,000-square-foot cultivation, processing, manufacturing and distribution operation in the industrial park, while another company, Genezen, is proposing to bring a facility to the industrial park that would eventually occupy 1.65 million square feet.
New Revenue Stream Means City Can Put on Hold Selling Hidden Valley Park
A major stumbling block to developing the second half of Hidden Valley Park has been a lack of funds. All of the city council members cited the potential revenue stream as a reason for changing the city’s pot ordinance.
Caliva, along with members of the city council, have predicted that the company will bring in a minimum of $10 million a year when in full production. That amount does not include the tax dollars that Genezen will bring to the city’s coffers.
Mayor David Ayers and Councilman Martin Devine have been consistenttly against selling the park with or without the pot ordinance change. Vice Mayor Sue Sorensen has been on the fence and Justin Mendez said he wants to sell the undeveloped 20 acres.
Councilmember Francisco Ramirez has said in the past that he would not vote to sell Hidden Valley Park if there was a tangible new stream of revenue. But Ramirez said that the recall effort has colored his decision.
“I may not be here next year to pursue my goal of an indoor recreation facility for youth.”
Ramirez pointed out that if the same group of Hanfordites are as successful as they were in ousting former Councilmember Gary Pannett, then they might be successful in their campaign against him.
“If we started seeing revenue from cannabis right away I would not be supportive of selling the park. But I think it is going to take a lot longer than people think, and I may not have the time.”
Ramirez also mentioned that Coalinga’s marijuana cultivation sites are not bringing in the revenue as fast as anticipated because of problems with their small town power grid.
Ramirez said that if a developer were ready right now to buy the 20 acres, and the money was earmarked for an indoor youth facility, he would be tempted to vote to sell it.
Robin Mattos, a member of Hanford Environmental Action Team, said that the undeveloped part of Hidden Valley Park used to have a piece of Mussel Slough. It was redirected and the land leveled.
“Hidden Valley Park is part of an integral and delicate part of the slough system and it shouldn’t be built on.”
Mattos added that there is usually a subterranean flow where a waterway used to be located and that the ground may get pretty soggy under any houses built on the site.
Mark Pratter from Friends of Hidden Valley Park said that the city’s main excuse for selling the park was because it didn’t have the funds to develop and maintain it. “Now, if we just wait a few years we will have the money for a lot of city projects.”