IMPERIAL COUNTY — The Imperial County Board of Supervisors indicated their direction on the cultivation and manufacturing of cannabis in the unincorporated areas of the Imperial County. Tuesday, June 6 at their regular meeting.
The Board discussed and announced their intentions on various aspects of regulating cannabis production and distribution, which will be reflected in an upcoming County ordinance and voted on, likely within the next two months.
There was not a unanimous agreement by the Board during the discussion, however, as Supervisor Raymond Castillo restated his opposition to permitting the use or cultivation of cannabis in any capacity. Castillo acted accordingly, voting nay on nearly every motion brought to the Board.
“The voters of this County voted against Prop 64. Statewide, it passed, but at the local level it didn’t,” stated Castillo. “I can’t support this.”
However, other Supervisors also dissented to several of the motions. Chairman Michael Kelley opposed allowing a medical and recreational cannabis products testing facility. Supervisor Luis Plancarte was in the minority in voting against banning retail distribution of cannabis for recreational use.
“We are faced with a state law, with the reality that it allows individuals the right to cultivate and to use it in their home,” said Plancarte. As such, he advocated for the County to take a path that would take into consideration that recreational use could not be functionally prohibited through excessive ordinances.
Overall, the strategy of the Board aimed to bring cannabis sale out of the gray market without encouraging recreational use.
Proposition 64 stipulates the recreational use of cannabis by adults cannot be prohibited, but could be regulated by local jurisdictions. Users may grow up to six plants at home as well. However, the Board voted its intention to prohibit outdoor cultivation, and to permit, but regulate, indoor cultivation, which likely will include growers obtaining permits and ensuring that the structure meets certain building codes and cannot be easily accessed by minors.
As for commercial production, the Board voted (4-1) Castillo opposed, to permit, but limit such operations to special planning areas or industrial zones. The Board was unanimous in allowing commercial cultivation for medicinal use (5-0), but was split on permitting cultivation for recreational use (3-2), with Michael Kelley and Raymond Castillo voting against.
The Board also considered whether to allow a retail outlet for cannabis sale. A factor in the discussion was the possibility that allowing a retail store in the unincorporated area of the County could relieve pressure on the cities hesitant about allowing a retail store within city limits. The motion was carried (3-2) to permit a single retail center for medicinal use only.
All the motions passed will only affect the unincorporated areas of the County. Incorporated cities will not be bound by any County ordinance on the matter, except for a County-wide tax on both medicinal and recreational cannabis production. The Board voted (4-1) in favor of applying such a tax, but would take the time to consider an appropriate tax rate comparable to other counties in California.
“Knowing that the use will be legal, we are faced with dealing with all the potential risk that use brings, but not having the funding to offset, educate, enforce, permit [use of cannabis],” said Plancarte. “I find there is a great benefit in permitting under strict guidelines and in considering putting a specific tax that allows these monies to be used specifically towards programs to educate our community.”
Though the Board made official motions on permitting cannabis production and sales, only the passing of County ordinances will make those decisions final.
“I could change my mind,” said Renison concerning his yea vote for the commercial cultivation of cannabis for recreational use. “I just want to get this process going, and there will be an ordinance coming back to us and I could change my mind. Personally, I’m against the recreational [use].”