The Anza Valley Municipal Advisory Council hosted its first Cannabis Work Group meeting at the Pizza Factory Saturday, Jan. 27. The purpose of the assembly was to agree on the format of a working committee and the goals to be reached in regards to regulations for the cultivation and sale of cannabis in the Anza-Aguanga communities.
AVMAC board members Bob Giffin and Edison Gomez-Krouse headed the session.
Local radio station KOYT-FM 97.1 was on hand to record the meeting for airplay at a later date to be announced. Erinne Roscoe, the Anza Community Broadcasting president of programming chair, set up professional microphones and equipment.
The meeting was well-attended by about 35 concerned residents who wished to become involved in forming new regulations for the cultivation and sale of cannabis in the Anza and Aguanga unincorporated areas.
Giffin called the meeting to order and shared his recent experience with Supervisor Chuck Washington’s Chief of Staff Jeff Comerchero. Giffin took Comerchero for a drive around the area to impress upon him the need for improved cannabis regulation, he said.
“When we first started out, I showed him the first grow that’s obvious from the highway,” Giffin said. “Then we stopped at a couple other grows on the way up, not in the ‘MAC’ territory, but I wanted to show him, ‘this is right in your backyard.’ Not that you don’t have people growing in Temecula, we know they are, but I just want to show you how this is impacting our community, whether it’s good or bad.”
Giffin said from his experience as a real estate agent that at least 80 percent of his buyers are pot growers. He stressed that he cannot discriminate home sales against anyone for any reason.
The discussion laid out some of the issues facing the Anza community. Giffin quoted water issues, the water suit, water quality and the threat of pesticides leaching into the water supply. Poisons to kill rodents are a major problem statewide, and it is also of concern with cannabis cultivation, as rodents do a large amount of damage to those as well as other crops.
Money paid in Anza and Aguanga in the form of taxes get returned to this area “pennies on the dollar,” Giffin said. It was mentioned at the AVMAC meeting Wednesday, Jan. 10 that a County Service Area might be implemented in the Anza-Aguanga area to keep money collected in regards to cannabis cultivation and sales to be spent locally on enforcement and oversight. A CSA would specify that the money would be used in Anza, rather than be spread about countywide.
“Otherwise Anza will get nothing,” Giffin said.
He described the mechanics of the new AVMAC Cannabis committee. Two members of the AVMAC will be part of the group. At this time those members are Edison Gomez-Krause as committee chair and Bob Giffin as vice chair.
Forming the committee will be a balanced sampling of people in the community. The meetings will be open to the public. The selection of committee members will be complete in about 2 weeks.
“This committee will basically be trying to find the best solutions to the cannabis regulation issue in the Anza-Aguanga community,” Gomez-Krause said. “The way the committee will work is that we will be meeting on a bi-weekly basis and will form a document describing the purpose of the group, what they plan to achieve, what direction we are going to take.”
Information gathering will be paramount, according to Gomez-Krause. Water use, the impacts of cannabis cultivation and the measuring of all possible variables will be utilized to make educated decisions on the issue.
“We have to start with a positive outlook,” he said. “We are going to create something they can get behind, you can get behind and everyone can get behind, working together. Information is key.”
Gomez-Krouse fielded questions from the audience regarding residential water usage versus the Agri Empire water usage and the difference between the large potato and spinach farmer’s water consumption and that of the cannabis growers’.
“He’s metered; he reports to the Water Master; you do not,” Giffin said. “The state requires you quantify your water source to get your license. The water suit will prevent any more licensing.”
There is a need to determine the amount of water that is being used in cultivating cannabis, Gomez-Krause added.
The incorporation of Anza was presented as a possible solution for self-regulating the cannabis industry. Local Agency Formation Commissions were mentioned, but Giffin countered that it takes years and the county will not let it happen. Cityhood is a difficult process, and the state has removed much of the LAFCO funding, making the process virtually unattainable.
Giffin went back to his visit with Comerchero, saying that he encouraged the chief of staff to decide that the Anza-Aguanga communities are an emergency cannabis area and that something needs to be done immediately. Once the Riverside County Board of Supervisors gives an emergency designation, and the people of those communities can come up with an idea on how it can be funded and pay for it, they will have local blessing, Giffin said.
“Otherwise they are planning on putting something on the ballot in November,” Giffin said, which may not be beneficial to the small communities.
Local resident Richard Ku spoke briefly about the need to include the Asian growers, as he felt that there is a cultural and language barrier that needs to be overcome.
“I see a lot of Asian community here, and they don’t understand the impact,” he said. “There’s a lot of them that really don’t understand the policy around here, and so I want to get all the Asian people who really want to grow and also want to be a part of the community. It is really good to have this kind of conversation.”
Andrew Carey brought up the issue of illegal pesticides and that any legitimate grower does not grow anything but organic. Giffin suggested an organic growers association.
There seemed to be some confusion on what the “unincorporated” Riverside County area was, and Giffin answered by saying that Anza is not a city, that it is governed by the county and has no city or town government to rely on. The five supervisors decide what Anza is allowed to do because of the low population and voting base and depressed tax dollars generated here. Some members of the audience did not know that the supervisors were elected officials.
“Anza is such a small portion of District Three, we don’t have a lot of clout,” Giffin said. “We’ll give the county something, make them some money hopefully, but we get some money that comes back. If we have no control over a portion of the money, it all goes to the county, very little will come back. I wouldn’t say nothing, but if we don’t create an entity that earmarks the money to come back, it won’t come back.”
The biggest hurdle, he said, was the water suit. In order to get agricultural licensing, water sources must be named and quantified, and at this time, no new commercial wells are allowed.
Gomez-Krause encouraged open-mindedness in regard to the cannabis issues.
“Resistance will slow this process down and will basically hinder any and all efforts we make to create something good,” he said. “Create a service district for the cannabis industry in the Anza-Aguanga area, and that’s what we’re going to try and do. There is no clear pathway to do it; it has never been done, so challenge accepted. We will be our own little bubble in the unincorporated area. We’re all here to work something out.”
The county is still months away from whatever they are going to put on the ballot, Giffin said.
A sense of community and preserving the flavor of Anza was an important issue for everyone in the room.
“Let’s all work together and make Anza a place we all want to be,” Giffin said. “We kind of need to super-heat the committee and come back and say ‘Look, this is a well-balanced picture of what the community presents, and this is what we would like and get the other four supervisors to agree and get it done.’ If the county says ‘no,’ it ain’t happening.”
It was agreed and voted on that the committee would include nine people. Giffin reiterated that the committee meetings will be open to the public.
It was also stressed that the valley’s growers needed to organize an association or guild as well, independent of the AVMAC committee.
The meeting ended on a positive note with the feeling that it was a very good start to begin to tackle an extremely sensitive issue.
For more information regarding the AVMAC cannabis work group committee, call (619) 254 5248.
To listen to the meeting as recorded by Anza’s KOYT-FM 97.1 radio, tune to KOYT-FM 97.1 on a radio or stream online at www.koyt971.org.
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 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.