More than a year after recreational cannabis became legal in California, Riverside County has issued its first permits for cannabis businesses in the unincorporated areas throughout the county.
On July 2, the county Board of Supervisors approved 50 permits for cannabis cultivation and 19 permits for cannabis retail. With county approval, the 69 businesses — which will operate in areas including Anza and Mecca — can now seek state licenses to operate.
The board’s approval arrives as the county is trying to strengthen its enforcement against unlicensed cannabis businesses. Less than a month ago, Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies seized an estimated $190 million of cannabis from unlicensed businesses growing around Anza, in the unincorporated areas.
To allocate permits, the county evaluated the 119 applicants using a 400-point system, which scored applicants on their location, the feasibility of their business plan and their plan to benefit the surrounding community. Applicants received additional points for local ownership and local hiring, as well as committing to pay employees above minimum wage.
Riverside County Assistant CEO Juan Perez said that to determine the ideal number of permits to issue his office and the planning department researched the population-to-permit ratio in other jurisdictions throughout California that issue recreational cannabis permits. The county may issue additional permits in the future, Perez said, once it understands the effects cannabis businesses have on the communities they operate in.
„This is the first year of implementation of the program. We’ll be starting a new program in January of next year and prior to January we’ll be going back to the Board of Supervisors to seek direction on how we want to handle the program,” Perez said. “That could include either additional regulations for proposals or possibly considering proposals that weren’t selected this year.”
Although cannabis delivery businesses remain in operation throughout California, none of the 69 approved applicants proposed delivery-only businesses. In addition to state cannabis excise taxes, businesses will pay Riverside County a public-benefit fee, which will fund regulating the cannabis industry and code enforcement against illegal businesses.
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Sam Metz covers politics. Reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @metzsam.