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Riverside councilmember looking to legalize the commercial sale of cannabis in the city

Councilmember Ronaldo Fierro, who serves Ward 3, says it is time to open the doors on the cannabis industry in Riverside.

Brenda Flowers

In 2016, California voters legalized recreational marijuana for all individuals over the age of 21. Despite that vote and 54% of Riverside residents voting to legalize recreational use, Riverside’s City Council banned all commercial selling and cultivation of marijuana in 2018.

Three years later, that issue is now being brought to light again by Councilmember Ronaldo Fierro. On Nov. 18, the Economic Development, Placemaking, and Branding/Marketing Committee heard a presentation from Fierro and his legislative assistant Caleb Ragan about developing an ordinance that would legalize the sale of recreational marijuana in Riverside.

Fierro chairs that committee and opened the discussion by saying it was time for Riverside to readdress the issue.

“The City of Riverside took a wait-and-see approach initially. But it’s long overdue for our city to discuss how we can regulate and subsequently benefit from this new and exciting industry,” Fierro said.

In September, the city received a notice of intent to circulate a petition which said it intended to create “a fair and reasonable regulatory environment for cannabis businesses.” If the petition were to get enough signatures, it could lead to a city ballot measure.

That creation of regulations from an outside source appears to be a potential point of concern for Fierro and his assistant.

“If passed by voters or accepted by the City Council, [the petition] would create a regulatory framework for all cannabis uses within city limits without City Council, city staff, or community input,” Ragan said during his presentation.

Ragan added that their ordinance would allow the sale of cannabis in all commercial and industrial zones in the city, with a few limitations. They also recommend that the cultivation and manufacturing of marijuana be considered at a different time.

In addition to the regulations, Ragan said the City Council would also need to approve and submit a ballot measure to let Riverside voters approve or deny a cannabis sales tax.

“The effective date of the ordinance could be incumbent upon voter approval of the sales tax measure. It is recommended that a sales tax ballot measure be submitted for voter approval in either June or November of 2022,” Ragan said.

The ordinance would look to have a maximum of 14 store licenses to start off, which could be increased or decreased with the city council’s discretion. The ordinance is still in the works and is expected to be returned to the committee sometime in January.