A new interim zoning ordinance will put the kibosh on new medical marijuana businesses and restrict those already operating in Tulare County.
Supervisors approved the ordinance, following a recommendation from county administrators and a lengthy presentation on Tuesday.
Previously, county supervisors had adopted regulations and ordinances related to marijuana, said Resource Management Agency Interim Director Benjamin Ruiz. The ordinance presented Tuesday was initiated when county administrators noted a combination of factors. There’s an increased interest in commercial marijuana activities, civil enforcement concerns and fire hazards.
Additionally, the increased interest in marijuana and a disconnect in the licensing system leads to an increase of unregulated medical marijuana activities and concerns about public welfare, Ruiz said.
Local dispensaries, though, say local law enforcement and code enforcement have targeted dispensaries, such as Canna Can Help, while letting mobile dispensaries run free. According to Weed Maps, there’s nearly 20 weed dispensaries in Tulare County. Just two of the are legally operating. Mobile operations are illegal in the county.
“We are the only establishment abiding by the rules, not sneaking around,” said attorney Doug Hurt, who represents Canna Can Help in Goshen. “Why are they targeting us. Are they lazy?”
In the presentation, Michael Grove, a code compliance officer, said there have been at least 30 inquiries about marijuana permits or licenses, mentioning the new state law since the fall of 2015.
Grove also said there are illegal remodels related to marijuana that are dangerous. Any building renovations must stop, Ruiz said. That likely includes Cann Can Help’s expansion in Goshen.
The cultivation of marijuana also drains water resources, as a marijuana plant takes up to eight gallons of water daily. Wes Hardin, who manages operations at Canna Can Help, said his operation uses much less water than typical outdoor grow sites.
“We are an open-book dispensary. We will abide by all rules set forth by the county, but we expect the county to enforce their rules across the board,” Hardin said. “It’s like the wild west. But, we’re the only ones playing by the rules.”
The Goshen-based dispensary contributes about $38,000 in sales tax each month. About $11,000 of that goes toward the county.
There’s also a criminal aspect to growing marijuana. Sheriff’s Department Detective Tim Johnson said the number of eradicated sites in the 2015-2016 fiscal year increased to 209, up from 189 the previous year and 169 two years ago.
The marijuana sites also increase crime activity, he said. At sites shut down by law enforcement, personnel recovered stolen guns, cell phones, and cash, likely obtained by illegal sales. There’s also the increasing numbers of Honey Oil Extractions, according to the report.
In the last two years, sheriff’s deputies have located 11 Honey Oil labs. Just last month, the sheriff’s department served 24 warrants in Pixley, Teviston, and Earlimart, revealing evidence of a Honey Oil lab. Honey Oil is the residue extracted from marijuana material after being heated.
There’s also child endangerment. Fertilizers, in liquid and powder forms, are often found at the sites where children live, Johnson said. Law enforcement also estimated $300,000 worth of electricity has been stolen as indoor grow sites use a lot of power.
In the report, Johnson also mentioned the arrest made in June of a driver transporting 100 pounds of marijuana on Yokohl Drive.
Tulare County Fire Chief Charlie Norman said the marijuana grow sites also pose a fire risk.
After the presentation, there was a public hearing. No comments were made, however.
Hurt said he was unaware of agenda item, but plans on attending any future hearings, including a public hearing set for 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 13.
In the November presidential election, a ballot initiative will give voters a chance to legalize recreational marijuana. Ruiz said county officials don’t know the local effect legalization would have on marijuana in Tulare County. He’s hoping the interim ordinance will help settle things locally.
“We have local police power,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to study the issue.”