Tulare County takes formal action over commercial cannabis

Board of Supervisors votes unanimously to ban new cannabis locations in unincorporated Tulare County

By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN

TULARE COUNTY – The Tulare County Board of Supervisors put the issue of commercial cannabis to bed two weeks ago, in a 5-0 vote, deciding it is not in the best interest of the County to allow for commercial cannabis in unincorporated areas.  

The board held a public hearing at its July 31 meeting, when the item came up for a vote, updating the temporary ordinance the County had used to bar commercial cannabis from locating in the County’s jurisdiction. Albeit the changes were minimal and deal with the date of the ordinance they passed two years ago, while keeping the two licenses for medical marijuana businesses that are currently in operation.

“Overall this is as far as the county goes… With a few technical things, it’s basically status quo going forward,” planning director Mike Washam said in an interview with the Sun-Gazette last month.

Washam added the ordinance needed to be made permanent because the County could continue to ban commercial and medical marijuana under a temporary basis; and the ordinance time limit is up this month. The County still needed to hold a public hearing on the minor ordinance change. But the Board can also change the ordinance when they see fit.

“They can readdress it and make any changes [they want]. We’re going to continue doing what we’ve been doing the last two years and move forward,” said Washam in the same July interview. 

There are other, less notable reasons the County does not want to get involved in commercial cannabis. One such reason, Washam said the County would rather not become a competitor for potential revenue dollars with the eight cities in Tulare County.  

“There has been some concern about oversaturation of the market place. Farmersville has tried to get people to come in and now they are considering having retail locations as well,” Washam added. “For the cities that choose to do that it can be a boon to their budget. 

If the County were to allow for commercial cannabis and more medical marijuana cannabis facilities, they would be faced with a unique set of hurdles other cities do not have. Where Woodlake has laid down strict rules with Valley Pure, the least of which is a direct streaming surveillance video to the police department, the County would have to implement those types of safeguards and then check in on them with regular code enforcement. Although Washam also noted that State inspectors would provide levels of oversight as well. Nonetheless local oversight at the County level could require a significant use of resources. 

In terms of pure geography Washam said it can take five or six hours to get to some parts of the County. And just because there is legal marijuana now does not mean illegal marijuana grows have gone away. Washam noted that Tulare County law enforcement still has an eye out for illegal grows in the forests of eastern Tulare County. He added there is still the danger of illegal pesticide use and illegal grows and “booby-traps” meant to ensnare patrolling officers.

Tulare County District 5 Board Supervisor Mike Ennis said during the July 31 board meeting there will be a need for monitoring water when cannabis grows become more robust, which was a key reason he voted in favor of the ordinance.

“Water is going to be a real factor in the future, but I’m all for this ordinance,” said Ennis.

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