Saturday, May 11, 2019

• City Council Meeting May 2019: Commercial Cannabis

I'm not going to get deep into the weeds on this (and yes, that bad pun was intended). ☺ 

Addendum at the top
Uh oh, I think I'm may have gotten more long winded here than I'd anticipated. The worst part... there are NO pictures, cartoons or graphs... just words and two video links. If you want to click out, I wouldn't blame you at all.
I just thought it better to have this issue separate from the park plans and the commercial design standards that were also discussed at the May meeting. 
Let me begin by saying it's a shame that deeply divisive matters are part of our lives, but they are. Thankfully, in Wildomar, such matters aren't a regular occurance and I hope that after the dust settles on this, we'll be able to set aside the rhetoric, and get back to the business of being a small town community.

When it comes to the opinion piece of this blog, it's all things I would have gladly shared from the dais, but aren't we all glad that I didn't prolong the meeting by another 30-45 minutes, and am posting my thoughts here instead?
In the end, after more than 35 minutes of council discussion, the vote went 3-2 in favor of creating a subcommittee to work alongside staff and create ordinances dealing with the various prongs of commercial cannabis.

Though most people tend to picture ratty illegal dispensaries when they hear commercial cannabis, like the type that have been in Lakeland Village on Grand Ave throughout the years, there are other businesses besides store front stores, aka dispensaries. 

The subcommittee will craft ordinances using both Riverside County's and Lake Elsinore's ordinances, and tailor them to Wildomar.

Time for a little housekeeping

For those that aren't aware, my name is Joseph Morabito and I'm the recently elected city council member from District three. I spoke for about six and half minutes. Below are the notes I spoke from. 

Or, you can skip reading them and just watch the video further down.
Where to start? 

I’ve never used it. I’ve never even experimented with it. But I’ve known plenty of people that did use it, and all were average everyday types of people. My interest in seeing this moved forward stems from a couple of things. Primarily, my libertarian leanings. 

This is America, and law abiding adults shouldn’t have big brother looking over their shoulders. It’s stunning that something like cannabis was ever made illegal in the first place was based on lies and propaganda which lead to near hysteria in the decades that followed. (I’m sure that’s a key reason why I never had any interest in it)

This used to be a very easy “slam dunk, NO” issue. 

Those days are over. 

I posted this topic on social media and asked for comments in several popular facebook groups. 
There was very little input. 

I saw the post of my fellow council member that also asked for input, it had about 30 responses. I’d estimate that they were at least 60-40 in favor.

Two and half years ago California, and Wildomar, voted to legalize it for adult recreational use. There is no stopping this as it becomes less and less stigmatized.

The amount of fear mongering put out by those that prefer the black market to remain intact is staggering, and if you are against a well regulated cannabis industry, by default, you’re for the status quo: the black market.

The city council received a handful of emails on the subject. My count had them divided 3 to 3 until another 9 were delivered to me moments ago.

One resident mentioned that the cannabis consumers he knows prefer either to have their product delivered, or “purchase from the black market, which is thriving, for the simple reason of no taxes being charged by the black market.“

I make my own pizzas. That doesn’t mean a pizzeria would fail because some people make their own.

A different emailer said, “As a former resident of Wildomar, yet still a resident of Southwest Riverside County, I find I am still a frequent visitor and shopper in your city. I strongly support the regulation of retail marijuana in Wildomar. Please be a leader in SW RivCo and allow for safe, regulated access to what has already been made legal in California.”

Here is an excerpt from another resident: I am a resident of Wildomar, having lived here for 36+ years, not that it matters. I am NOT in favor of unlicensed, illegal dispensaries in our town, but I AM in favor of fully-licensed, legal facilities that benefit us tax-wise AND are certified 'clean green', with easily available/verifiable labs to prove potency and being GMO/insecticide-free. I am not as concerned with those who use recreationally as I am those who have genuine medical necessity, though both should be protected from unscrupulous dealers who might deceive their customers, providing product that is 'not-as-advertised'.

Here’s an email in opposition, “I do not want to see this type of business in Wildomar. I moved here 17 years ago so we could enjoy a new growing community. We have good businesses here and already have enough homeless people on the streets. We do not want to draw more of them to our city!”

I don’t see the correlation between well regulated cannabis businesses and homelessness. 

There was a survey done last year that asked two questions. 

Respectfully, I consider it a flawed survey on several grounds. 

(I’ll try not to get too wonky here) The survey asked if the voters would approve of an additional one penny per dollar sales tax increase. The survey came back with 68% were in favor. The measure only ended up getting 58% at the ballot. That 10 point difference equals 17% off the mark. Well outside the usual margin of error.

Then there was the second question asking about cannabis businesses in Wildomar. The survey came back with 55% opposed, 42% in favor with 4% unsure. This was asked of the same pool of people, registered voters. 

I’m sorry, but legal residents that are also non citizens and therefore ineligible to vote, or people that choose not to vote, still have a say in what goes on in our community outside of ballot box issues, but they weren’t asked. The survey was deeply flawed.

One last thought about surveys and polls. How is everyone enjoying President Hillary’s time in office? Yeah, polls and surveys. 

I am NOT in favor of unlicensed, unregulated cannabis businesses in our city. If anything, I would want stringent regulations, with serious consequences to any cannabis business owner that didn’t take their responsibilities to the city seriously. 

I’m against blight in the city, and the last thing I’d do is invite it in. If we can’t come up with demanding, yet realistic, ordinances, then I would be a no vote. I believe such ordinances can be hammered out, as they have been in many other cities in Riverside County alone, including Lake Elsinore with which we share a police department. 

There are more types of cannabis businesses than just dispensaries, but dispensaries are the only type of cannabis business that was opposed in the all the emails to the city that I read, and the various comments on social media. 
Please note: I'm not going to do pull quotes of what the other council members said like I would have when I was just blogger guy in the front row.

The next to speak was Councilmember Bridgette Moore. She picks up around the 6:50 mark of the video. She was opposed and she initially spoke for about 3 minutes.

Mayor Pro-Tem Dustin Nigg was next up (10:15 of the video) and spoke from notes he'd taken during this agenda item. Through all his fine points, "Damn Apple Store" seemed to be the most memorable line... my "How is everyone enjoying President Hillary’s time in office?" took a distant second in that department.

Councilmember Ben Benoit's part begins around the 16:30 minute mark. Followed up by Mayor Marsha Swanson's first comments that pick up the 19:00 minute mark. 

Both Mayor Swanson and Councilmember Moore reiterated that they think that no matter how much time goes by that there will always be a black market. I have to agree with them, there always will be one. 

This is where I wish I could have had a Mulligan and changed it from "the black market" to "a THRIVING black market".

There are people that still buy illegal bathtub cheese and get unlicensed dentistry done by their hairdresser, but it's not the norm, and those aren't thriving black market industries... just pathetic black market/under the table industries, and that's what I'd like to see when it comes to the old way of buying marijuana.

None of us were around during prohibition, but those bootleggers (the whiskey version of the black market) all but disappeared within a couple of decades of prohibition being repealed. 

It didn't occur with the stroke of the pen, or in a couple of hours, days, weeks, months or years... but it did eventually die, and long before any of us were born.

Please don't come back with, but I have a neighbor that brews his own beer or that you have an uncle Jed that has a still in his basement and makes the best shine around. Those stories are an indication that regulation has given that black market a forearm shiver to the jaw and it's down for the count.

The same will happen with the cannabis black market... give it a couple of decades to die out, no one has ever suggested it would be like flipping a light switch.

I've answered many comments on facebook as fairly and directly as I could. 

Let me debunk something right here and now. I must have counted at least a dozen comments suggesting that the 3 yes votes disregarded the will of the voters.

I'm sorry, but I have to think that ALL FIVE of us, which would include the two in opposition, would agree that a survey does NOT have any similarity to a certified election conducted at the ballot box. 

I'd been urging the city council to put this on the ballot since at least the March 30, 2017, special Prop 64 workshop meeting, but that window closed with the 2018 election.

In the blog I quote then Mayor, Tim Walker, when I thought I heard him say he wanted it to go to the ballot. As it turns out, I took him more seriously than he intended.

Below is a copy and paste from the blog mentioned above.

• It doesn't say anywhere in that law that we have to allow a dispensary in our city. We have the right to stop the dispensaries. That's the issue with me. Whether 53% [voted for Prop 64 or not], we'll put it back on the ballot, and say "Ok folks, you want a dispensary? You come up and put your name on the line, if you get over 50%, then you can have a dispensary in your town.
[original Wildomar Rap commentary]

This is a good idea, and I think that such a thing should be the main focus of the council on the issue of dispensaries in Wildomar.

Wildomar Rap, March 30, 2017

Based on the record, it's fair to suggest that the opposition, in 2017, all the way through my upset election against incumbent Tim Walker, by a 57 to 42 margin, never had any intention of putting it on the ballot. 

They had ample time to get something ready for 2018, and didn't make that a priority.

What I find a bit odd is that the opposition that remains on the council appears to be indignant that the will of the people is being ignored. To the point that many people on social media are parroting that very sentiment, yet none have asked, why didn't they put it on the ballot when they had the chance?

Our city manager was asked how much it would cost to put this question on the ballot. His response was between $20K and $30K. That coincidentally is the ballpark figure of what the ordinance would cost to prepare.

Why does the opposition want to pay double? Can we afford that? The cost of putting together an ordinance is about the same as putting the measure on the ballot.

You elected the city council to make these decisions, and you trusted your elected representative to act in accordance with the will of the community. This is a lose-lose for every member of the city council whether they are in favor or opposed.

If you do not like the job your elected official has done while in office, you have the right to vote them out, and you don't have to justify your vote to anyone.

No matter how you slice it, between 35%-40% of the people were going to be displeased with the outcome of the council's vote. For everyone that is unhappy with the vote, understand that an equal number of people are happy with it, and are telling each of us so. This has been a damned if you do, damned if you don't proposition for all five of us from the get go.

Here is why I am not in favor of putting this on the ballot in 2020. 

The public showed very little interest in this issue. There were 16-17 emails (half of which were in favor), and only three public comments in opposition.

There was also very little input on social media, and two council members specifically asked for input on facebook. 

There were only six public comments in total, and though everyone's view is worthy of being heard, let's face it... there were no new faces among them... and, for some reason, Kenny Mayes didn't write an email or speak on this though he was in the front row. 

Let me give you two recent examples of what public outrage can look like.

First, back in 2017 there was a proposed townhouse project called Camelia Townhouse for the southwest end of Wildomar. We're talking about condos that people were going to purchase (or so said the developer) not another Bandini Mountain, and that brought a storm of protest.

To the point of having to have extra seating in the council chambers, and there were dozens of speakers. That held true for both the planning commission meeting and the city council meeting.

If you're interested in my takes about how the Cameila issue went down, please follow the key words at the bottom of the blog.

Secondly, in Temecula, on April 23rd of this year, at their city council meeting, a resolution was put forth that declared socialism and communism are threats to the US Constitution. That triggered a backlash from residents, over concerns of free speech, and the city council meeting lasted nearly five hours as it dealt with the fallout, and then the resolution was ultimately withdrawn.

Had there been any sort of public outcry at Wildomar's most recent city council meeting, the yes votes would have had to take that very seriously. Yet, there was no impetus to spend city money, putting something on the ballot, when clearly this was a non issue to the balance of the residents. 

Another thing to give some consideration. 

I think we all can agree that the general sentiment about cannabis has changed greatly since the '80s or the '90s.

With every year going by, and most of the younger generation not having any hang ups with it, as the old guard dies off, their replacements don't share the same angst and fears. 

In 20 years people will look back and scoff at all the wasted energy trying to prohibit cannabis... just like those in my dad's generation would have about the prohibition of alcohol. 

The above is just a hunch, and I could be wrong, but I don't think so... and this coming from someone that has no interest in it as a product and doesn't own any shares of stock in such companies.

Here are some questions put to me from a facebook user. I responded by saying those were great questions to ask at the first subcommittee meeting.

But since I doubt I'll be on that subcommittee, being that I'm the rookie on the council, I'll try to answer them here.

 If these drugs dispensaries are safe to have in Wildomar, why armed security guards? 
The opposition throughout the nation have made this the boogeyman. As a concession, to ease their fears, such measures have been added.

 Why does Councilman Dustin Niggs [sic] want camera systems that would make the US Mint jealous? 
Please see the answer above.

 What kind of activities could come with marijuana dispensaries to bring this kind of security needs, if they’re safe?
Ditto the first answer again.

 What should we expect? Should we be worried about drug cartels retaliating in Wildomar for profits lost?
Is that a thing? This is a fair item for the subcommittee to ascertain. Are other municipalities facing reprisals from drug cartels over losing much of their black market? Perhaps the FBI will share their stats on it with the subcommittee.

 What kind of crime should we expect when there is a known cash only business in our Neighborhoods? 
There will be no cannabis businesses in the neighborhoods of Wildomar. The black market is what sets up in neighborhoods. They do not care what you or I think. They are criminals. Criminals do what they please. 

 What kind of security will the city staff require when the dispensaries pay their fees and taxes in cash? What will that cost? Will the staff be safe? 
Good questions. I don't know what the protocol is in areas that already have licensed and regulated cannabis businesses. That sounds like something the subcommittee will be addressing.

 What effects will the marijuana dispensaries have on our local Emergency Rooms and Urgent cares when the customers smoke or eat too much?
Why would there be any difference depending on where the consumer obtained their product? 

 What effect will this have on the cost of Wildomar residents home owners insurances when they learn there is a dispensary nearby?
Another fair question. This should be studied by the subcommittee and be part of any reports that are shared during the public meetings.

• What research has the Wildomar City Council done on marijuana dispensaries, cultivation, and testing, other than a survey that concluded that the majority of it’s [sic] residents don’t want them, before 3 of the 5 council members decided to possibly move forward? Besides talking to a few drug users that seem “regular”. 

If any, at what cost?
I can only speak for myself, and as I've mentioned more times than I can count, the survey was deeply flawed. Even if you prefer slightly flawed, flawed is flawed.

The last half of the question looked like a jab at part of my comments during the council meeting. It's very difficult to take people seriously that speak with hyperbole in every sentence. 

If the everyday productive people I know/have known (which number in the multiple of dozens, if not hundreds), that coincidentally are marijuana consumers, are "drug users" then so are those that drink beer. Alcohol is every bit as much of a drug as cannabis.
Video live streaming of meetings is still pretty new in Wildomar, and at this point the only meetings that are streamed are city council and planning commission meetings. I think it may be wise to make an exception for any and all cannabis subcommittee meetings.

That's the update. I'm sure I could have let my occasional logorrheic impulses perpetuate this, but I bet you've had a bellyful of my opinions for a good long time, I know I sure have.

Below is the full video of the entire meeting. 

Item 3.1 begins at the 57 minute mark. It starts with a presentation by city manager Gary Nordquist, then public comments, and then council discussion leading up to the vote, but I suggest the video above when it comes to the council comments. I adjusted the audio up. The unedited video below has low volume.
•                •                •

Truly good advice is seldom welcome, and those who need it most, appreciate it least.
– EG Marshall (CBSRMT 1977)

Wildomar Rap is confident that when it comes to opposite sides of a contentious topic, BOTH are applying the above saying to the other.

This blog was produced for viewing on a desktop or a laptop. Though it's been optimized for smartphones, the formatting can look odd on a smartphone or if you get this delivered through email (such as missing video links). Link to proper format.


  1. Yes please make the same mistakes as riverside and Elsinore has done, way over regulate, and make it so expensive that the little guy cannot participate.
    The little guy IS the “black market”, they are not criminals and should not be treated like criminals.
    They are the “micro brewers” that built the industry and because over regulation ( same as cost prohibitive) they are not invited to legalization party.
    I guess it’s about money, not fairness or equal opportunity....
    “Enforcement without opportunity is a broken system”

    1. Somehow I missed this comment when it was posted.

      Microbreweries do NOT operate without all the proper licenses, permits, etc. Which would include certificates from the county health department. If someone is a garage brewer, then they aren't selling their finished product. They're consuming it themselves or sharing it with friends. Once they start selling it, it brings on a ton of regulations they have to comply with or pay the piper.

      Once cannabis was legalized, it now had rules it had to follow or face the consequences. That's the same reality all other legal businesses have to contend with.


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