Valley News Intern
MENIFEE – Menifee City Council voted Jan. 6 to adopt a Marijuana Cultivation and Processing Ordinance that will go in effect 30 days after the second reading. The ordinance will strictly prohibit marijuana use and allow the council to determine further regulations in the future if necessary.
Mayor Pro Tem August held the second reading of the ordinance Wednesday, Jan. 20, as Mayor Mann was absent due to his attendance of the California League of Cities seminar in Sacramento. This move secures the city’s ability to develop its own regulation processes before Assembly Bill No. 243, Medical marijuana takes effect March 1.
The new ordinance prohibits cultivation and processing marijuana anywhere in the city. This includes “growing, planting, harvesting, drying, curing, grading, rimming or processing” the plant and creating any kinds of marijuana related products.
Other cities have been following similar trends as AB 243 rests on the horizon. Through a provision effective March 1, the bill will become the only regulatory power to license applicants for medical marijuana in cities where no cultivation ordinance is in effect. The bill will pre-empt cities from enacting any marijuana legislation after this point of no return.
“Doing this now sets the bar for adjustment,” stated Council Member Matthew Liesemeyer. “If we did nothing, after March first we could do nothing. We basically needed to set this line.”
Just before the vote took place during the first reading, a few public speakers expressed their concerns. Proponents of the ban stressed the “small town” community that would be threatened by the influx of marijuana users should its usage continue unopposed under AB 243 jurisdiction. Opponents worry about the future of businesses and were critical of the council’s inability to be forward-thinking.
Citizens also discussed the medical benefits of marijuana, with some currently struggling through illnesses that need to be treated. Diane Donahue, diagnosed with breast cancer, assured that “there are serious repercussions for people to not be able to get this drug.”
Council Members August and Lesa Sobek commented on behalf of their districts, which largely oppose marijuana in their neighborhoods. They feel that families and children should be protected first and foremost.
“Most of the people that I talk to say that they love Menifee because it is a family environment,” said Sobek. “It’s a safe place to raise your children.”
Liesemeyer, the only dissenter in the vote, recognized the medical benefits of marijuana and would have preferred a limit of allowing eight plants to be cultivated, as recommended by the planning commissioner.
Mann assured the council that banning marijuana now will still allow the council or a future one to alter the municipal code later down the road. He stressed that the vote was simply “an opportunity to meet a deadline under the law.”
The city is prepared to uphold this ordinance with regular code enforcement and the police department. Last summer, the Sheriff’s Special Enforcement Team managed to take down four marijuana cultivators in Quail Valley alone.
August, Councilmember John Denver, and Liesemeyer approved the second reading of the ordinance, which will be effective Feb. 19.