Cannabis operations are moving forward quickly in Riverside County, with nearly 70 permit recommendations for cannabis businesses in unincorporated areas. On July 2, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved a list of recommendations for 50 permits for cannabis cultivation and 19 permits for cannabis retail operations. It’s the first step in setting up a robust cannabis market in areas that fall in the county’s jurisdiction.
Using a 400-point system, 119 business proposals were considered and ranked based on location, feasibility and whether or not county officials believed they had a sound business plan. Businesses also received bonus points if they claimed local ownership and will provide local hiring opportunities. Those who will provide better pay than minimum wage were also favored. No delivery-only businesses, however, received any recommendations, possibly due to the oversaturation of illegal delivery services in the county.
With an emphasis on respecting neighbors, the business proposals were carefully vetted. “The Commercial Cannabis program has been crafted to allow for Commercial Cannabis Activities that could potentially co-exist with existing and future businesses and within reasonable development standards that would protect residential neighborhoods,” the Riverside County agenda reads. “Each case will be individually reviewed and vetted by the hearing bodies and the public to ensure that the proposed permitted use is compatible with surroundings, mitigates potential impacts to residents and businesses, and is in compliance with all state and local laws.”
In total, 69 businesses received recommendations to move forward in the licensing application process. None of the businesses yielded perfect scores on the point system. Of all 119 businesses, The Artist Tree ranked the highest with 380.8 points. The business proposal with the lowest amount of points was ranked at 202.1 points. All business proposals must abide by Riverside County’s land use and zoning regulations, which are outlined in Ordinance No. 348. “Upon Board receipt of this ranking list, the top proposals that have been identified as being able to move forward will have 120-days to submit a complete application for a Conditional Use Permit and Development Agreement pursuant to Ordinance No. 348.”
Jeff Greene is chief of staff for Riverside County Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, who also serves on the county’s Cannabis Ad Hoc Committee. Greene told CULTURE that there is currently no cap on cannabis businesses in the county. He clarified that the recommendations greenlight businesses to move forward and apply for Conditional Use Permits. Once they have those, they can move forward with several more requirements and apply for state licenses.
“Upon Board receipt of this ranking list, the top proposals that have been identified as being able to move forward will have 120-days to submit a complete application for a Conditional Use Permit and Development Agreement pursuant to Ordinance No. 348.”
Licensing businesses is one of the ways county leaders are tackling illegal sales—which are alive and well in Riverside County. But meanwhile, illegal cannabis eradication efforts continue in full force. In June, Riverside County Sheriff agents seized illegal cannabis valued at around $190 million in unincorporated areas near Anza. On July 18, Riverside County Sheriff officers raided another operation near Perris, seizing 47 tons of cannabis and making 49 arrests. The wave of raids spawned a heated conversation on social media. Police said the illegal cannabis operations use harmful chemicals, while others argued that it’s actually all about money.
Businesses will pay a public-benefit fee to fund code enforcement efforts to curb illegal cannabis operations. That fee is on top of state excise taxes. Despite the massive raids, county leaders are showing that they are willing to provide a pathway for legal businesses as well.