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Visalia takes next step toward banning retail sales, cultivation of recreational marijuana

Visalia takes next step  toward banning retail sales, cultivation of recreational marijuana

By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN

VISALIA – Marijuana will not be a money maker for Tulare County’s largest city, but it won’t have to spend money to combat the problems associated with its commercial cultivation and sale.

The City of Visalia took the next step in becoming the first city in Tulare County to ban all commercial production and retails sales of marijuana before Proposition 64 takes effect on Jan. 1, 2018. The item was unanimously approved as part of the consent calendar at the Oct. 2 meeting.

The ordinance, which should take effect on Nov. 16, 30 days following the second reading, changes its current zoning ordinance by allowing marijuana to be smoked at any private residence and not just in agricultural or single family residentially zoned properties to comply with state law. It also limited the number of plants being grown in a home to six plants, down from the originally 12 allowed under the medical marijuana law. It also reiterates the city’s ban on smoking marijuana in public places and also bans smoking pot anywhere tobacco smoke is not allowed. Violations of smoking marijuana outside of a private residence are $1,000 per day.

Despite a ban on commercial marijuana cultivators and retailers operating in the city, licensed commercial cultivators in other jurisdictions will be allowed to transport marijuana along public roads within the city limits, a requirement of Proposition 64. The Council also eliminated a current piece of the code requiring quarter inspections due to staffing levels.

Recreational marijuana use was legalized for anyone 21 years or older under Proposition 64, which was approved by voters in November. Under the ban, Visalia would lose out on fees and revenue such as conditional use permit conditions, business license fees, and permitting fees associated with regulating marijuana. Prop. 64 also allows local jurisdiction’s to tax the cultivation of marijuana at $9.25 per ounce for flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves, with exceptions for certain medical marijuana sales and cultivation and 15 percent tax on the retail price of marijuana will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. Taxes will be adjusted for inflation starting in 2020.

However, that taxation comes with increased costs associated with licensing of businesses, regulation of the various uses, enforcement of regulations, tax collection and auditing. Shortly after approving the most marijuana-friendly business rules in Colorado, the City of Puebla saw the number of homeless double to more than 5,400 last year, according to the Posada Homeless Services Organization.

In the case of Puebla, the loose rules also had significant economic benefits as the cannabis industry is linked to one-third of all building permits, jobs for 1,300 licensed employees and $3 million in additional revenue that has been used to grant college scholarships and build playgrounds.

Visalia’s vote was in stark contrast to the viewpoint many others cities have taken as they are faced with dwindling sales tax revenue. The Cities of Farmersville and Woodlake have placed measures on the November 2017 ballot to allow commercial cultivation of recreational marijuana but prohibit retail sales within the city. In Kings County, Hanford voted to allow commercial cultivation of medical marijuana and voters will consider a measure imposing additional taxes in 2018. The only Valley city to decide to allow commercial marijuana grows and recreational dispensaries is Coalinga, a ballot measure that was passed by voters last year.

But far more local governments have banned recreational marijuana including Clovis, City of Fresno, Fowler, Kingsburg, Lemoore, Reedley, Sanger, Fresno County and the Tulare County Board of Supervisors.

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