The Anza Valley Municipal Advisory Council meeting was held at the Anza Community Hall Wednesday, Jan. 10, and was attended by about 75 community members.
AVMAC members Bob Giffin, Allison Renck, Sharon Evans, Gordon Lanik and Edison Gomez Krause were present.
Special guest speakers Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington’s legislative assistants Opal Hellweg and Brian Tisdale were also in attendance.
The discussion focused on cannabis regulation in the Anza-Aguanga community and the legislation and methods that could be employed as solutions to several issues associated with “pot farming.”
The Anza Valley Municipal Advisory Council meets every other month and seeks input from the community on subjects that they believe need to be addressed by local government officials.
Hellweg updated everyone on the Riverside County Board of Supervisor’s meeting the preceding Tuesday.
“Doom and gloom forecasts,” she said were discussed, referring to the fact that revenues are not as high as output at this time. The supervisors are working on ways to be more efficient. Financial impacts such as the Grey Case, which involves jail inmate health at $40 million, and the In-health Supportive Services issues, which are taking another $3 million, are hurting the bottom line. Additionally, staffing of the new John Benoit Detention Center will take another $7 million.
“The forecast is not very good,” Hellweg said.
Krause said that there are concerns about cannabis and that the AVMAC is collecting information, suggestions and possible solutions to help address the issues. Many other communities in Riverside County share in these problems.
“We are not alone. We are like a small little state within the county, and we are measured with the same stick,” he said. “As far as the regulation of cannabis the key concern that we have noticed is the lack thereof.”
There is no regulation, so illegal actors can run rampant and do as they wish and those who wish to comply with the new state regulations can’t because they lack the necessary permits to comply, he said.
“So, we’re at a place where the bad guys can do whatever they want and the good guys have their hands tied,” Krause said. “I’m not saying there are all bad guys, there are some gray guys and that is what we’re here to talk about today. We came up with the acronym ‘the COWW,’ the big, fat cannabis cow, which is Crime, Odor and Water and Waste management.”
According to Krause, there are no statistics indicating crime has increased in Anza, but some residents feel a sense of insecurity, and there are illegal growers in Anza. There are no statistics linking increased crime with cannabis cultivation. Marijuana odor can be very strong, and Krause suggested nuisance odor control ordinances for all future regulations. Light and sound contamination are concerns, and water and waste need to be properly regulated. Taxes are already being collected, but entry and permit fees could be looked at by the county to provide more revenue for local enforcement and regulation.
“Those that want to grow legally cannot and those that want to grow illegally are just going to anyway. That’s going to hurt us,” Krause said.
“Are you all as confused and frustrated as I am,” Giffin said. “I know the supervisors express that as well.”
Giffin cited his personal experience with cannabis cultivation.
“I live on a mile-long road, there’s 20 homes, seven of those homes are actively growing marijuana.”
He went on to describe that three have greenhouses that glow at night, making stargazing with his deep star telescope impossible. He also spoke about the impacted roads, the trash, and his well which is not producing what it used to and even emits a constant sulfur smell that was not there previously.
“We have no regulation or regulatory agencies currently exist to protect our property rights due to these issues that are creating huge impacts for all of us who came out here to get away from the hubbub and the city life,” he said.
Giffin hopes that legislation will help mitigate these issues. As a real estate broker, he knows many people are buying in Anza and Aguanga in order to grow, and he is not able to discriminate against anyone. Giffin suggested forming a cannabis working group and have twice monthly meetings to brainstorm on the issues.
Tisdale described the fact that the laws in Riverside County have not changed regarding what can and can’t be done with cannabis cultivation. Ordinance 925 said that marijuana farming is prohibited in unincorporated Riverside County, with these exceptions: medical patients can grow 12 plants per medical card, two total cards per property or 24 plants per parcel. Newly voted in Proposition 64 allows for six plants per person over age 21, but only six per parcel. The county is working on whether they will tax it or keep the ban in place. If they decide to tax, it has to go to the voters and must be approved by a two-thirds majority vote. There is no guarantee that the people will approve a new tax.
“Does this community want cannabis – legal cannabis in it or not?” Tisdale asked.
During public comments, Andrew Carey suggested that the supervisors missed an opportunity by creating restrictive ordinances that the people ignore and the county is wasting a lot of resources trying to control the rampant problems as a result.
“All this funding that we’re talking about could have been solved a couple of years ago, but because somebody decided that they were gonna fight a basically unstoppable tide, now we are in the position we are in.”
He wanted to see a 99-plant limit reinstated and to tax marijuana with the funds earmarked for the Anza and Aguanga area only.
Chris McClay was next and spoke about the benefits and positive effects the 420 culture was having on real estate sales and that put local money into the community. He also advocated for a 99-plant maximum and touched on the anti-cannabis “lies” he said have been the propaganda for the last 80 years.
Ken Steinmetz was called upon next and took a position at the front of the room. He chastised the government’s war on marijuana and praised the decriminalization of cannabis as the will of the people dictated. He complained about code enforcement “raids” and the use of racial slurs against some residents as irresponsible and hateful.
“Concentrated cannabis oil kills cancer cells,” he said, advocating the alleged medical properties of the plant. “I say unite, growers and voters, in Anza. Let’s form a growers’ guild, union or association, ‘High Desert Growers of Anza.’ Put an end to the hateful misinformation and propaganda.”
Allison Renck took her turn by saying it is a development issue and should be treated as such by the county, encompassing conditional use permits, air quality studies and habitat issues.
“When you have development, you have to mitigate,” Renck said.
Tisdale availed himself for additional questions and spoke briefly in regards to the way the county uses tax monies.
“Unfortunately, whatever is generated here goes into the county coffers, and the supervisor has to fight for his district for that money, it’s just how it is,” he said.
Andrew Carey suggested the designation of Anza as a “Community Service District” in which tax revenues would be added to aid one particular area for a certain goal. Everyone agreed that this designation would be well worth looking into, and the AVMAC will work with the county to investigate this option further.
Hellweg explained the functions of the districts and gave examples, such as CSD 149 in Temecula for the upkeep of roads. Voters need a two-thirds majority vote to implement tax assessments on themselves for these specific purposes. The “service” for Anza might be to create cannabis regulations designed specifically for the community.
“Those dollars do not go into the county coffers,” Hellweg said. “They go to those residents for that purpose in that area.”
Giffin repeated the need for the cannabis committee, and after the meeting several people volunteered for that group.
To contact Washington’s office, call (951) 955-1030 or visit http://supervisorchuckwashington.com.
For more information about the AVMAC, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AnzaValleyMAC.
For updates on cannabis ordinances and laws in Riverside county, residents can visit http://planning.rctlma.org/Home/Cannabis.aspx.
For information on what is currently allowed in the unincorporated areas of Riverside County, including a public input page to leave comments on this issue, visit http://planning.rctlma.org/Home/Cannabis/PublicInput.aspx.
To learn more about state cultivation regulations and fees, visit http://calcannabis.cdfa.ca.gov.
For information on all areas of cannabis regulation and tax structure in California, visit https://cannabis.ca.gov.