The San Jacinto City Council chambers was once again filled with residents, this time mostly from the Mexican-American community May 2, to voice their opinions on the marijuana ordinances passed by the council in response to the state’s passage of Proposition 64 legalizing the recreational use of the drug.
The issue was placed on the council’s agenda, not to change the city’s new marijuana cultivation, sales and distribution ordinances recently passed by the council, but to further discuss where and how to manage legal medicinal marijuana grows in the area set aside for them in an approximate 2,000-acre area of the city west of Sanderson Avenue and north of Cottonwood Avenue.
While the majority of the residents making public comments were Latinos, opposed to cannabis grows in designated areas in the city and grower-sought legal distribution outlets, council members Andrew Kotyuk and Crystal Ruiz pointed out voters both in the state and in the city had approved the drug’s recreational use.
“The truth of the matter is and the bottom line is, it is very hard for us to understand, especially with morals the belief in God and Christianity, is that the state took that away from us. The state made it legal. So, San Jacinto can’t ban it. We can’t stop it from legally being here,” Kotyuk said, suggesting the council’s direction now is to make sure the city takes the necessary steps to insure the public’s safety and controls the grows, its cultivation and distribution.
The discussion Tuesday night was opened on the request of Mayor Scott Miller, who started the discussion out with a cannabis program he had written and wanted to see added into the city’s code enforcement and zoning outside of the state’s Proposition 64’s rule making the recreational use of marijuana legal.
The main idea in his program was to have each department in the city and public education agencies review every marijuana growers’ application to establish grow farms and distribution requirements. He also is asking for a Cannabis Oversight Committee that would have cannabis developers included. As of May 2, there had been no cannabis farm applications received, according to city staff.
The reading of the mayor’s cannabis program was followed by nearly two hours of public comment with both those for and against marijuana grows speaking their thoughts in three- and six- minute sessions. In an unusual change of the public comment three-minute rule, the council allowed the Spanish-speaking public commentators to have three minutes longer so an interpreter could relay their statements in English.
A total of 25 speakers took the podium to express their views that evening. Sixteen speakers were opposed to any use, cultivation or distribution of the drug in the city, stating their fears it will bring more crime, addiction and fear to the all the people of the city and especially to their children where there is already a problem with marijuana.
Nine other speakers voiced their opinion on how marijuana, with its medicinal and recreational use approved by the state, would not only help those needing the drug for health purposes but bring a considerable amount of tax and permit money to the city’s coffers. It was said by the proponents that marijuana is now deemed legal in California by the majority of voters as well as those in the city who voted in favor of limited recreational use of the drug in a pre-Proposition 64 vote.
Resident Perla Aguilar was the first in the Mexican-American community to be called to the podium to speak during the public comment time.
“Please don’t let this happen in our town,” Aguilar said of potential marijuana grows. “Think of your children how it will affect them.”
Resident Sandra Chavez stood, with an interpreter and said to the council, “I am the mother of two children. I do not want to see my children lost in drugs. Have you asked God about this? Do you want our children walking around like zombies?”
Other Latino mothers pleaded with the council to make sure their children don’t have access to more marijuana with grows and distribution centers. Some note that they have been in the schools and have already seen children using marijuana and other drugs on campus.
Also, taking the speakers’ stand were several marijuana grow developers who pointed out that if the city’s ordinances are delayed or rescinded, the illegal growers, who they said are already in the city area like it or not, would continue to benefit, and the city would have less control and lose high potential tax and permit revenues from secure farms.
One grower representative told the council, “Booze is far more dangerous than cannabis.” He noted that without the ordinances how would the city enforce the law against illegal growers already in the city.
“Why is this coming up again,” he said. “We are trying to help bring these investors (legal medicinal marijuana growers) to the city.”
A resident told the council that his daughter was afflicted with cerebral palsy and the only thing that helped her was prescribed medical marijuana. He urged the council to go ahead with the medicinal marijuana farm developments and dispensaries.
A representative of legal marijuana farmers told the council that the legal grow farms “are the most secure facilities,” far more than other businesses. He cited the employment of specially designed state of the art robots that are patrolling some of the medicinal farms along with other extreme security measures.
Councilman Alonso Ladezma, who in past meetings has expressed his belief that marijuana has no place in the city outside of needed medical marijuana, said at the end of public comment, “The community has spoken.
With the public comment time completed, Councilman Russ Utz urged the council to begin accepting applications as soon as possible after suggesting that Mayor Millers program was more of a “manifesto” and totally unwarranted with the new ordinances in place.
Miller explained his program was not meant to change or rescind the current city marijuana ordinance that he also approved, but to have a council workshop on the rules and enforcement of the outdoor marijuana farms, their number and size in the part of the city that is designated or zoned for designated or undesignated agricultural use.
“I want to give this ordinance proper due process,” Miller said and by doing so make sure the city does get the revenues needed without turning it into the “Wild West.” He said he did sign the ordinance with little public comment and now wants the council to meet in a special workshop to discuss his program for possible implementation that still could be done without revisiting the original ordinances already approved.
Following the long debate, the council agreed to hold a special workshop on the matter but not the date was immediately set.