Plans for a cannabis dispensary in a rural community where marijuana is a divisive topic have been rejected.
The Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday, June 14, to deny a permit for a proposed dispensary in the unincorporated community of Anza.
Cannabis 21+, which has locations in San Diego and Palm Desert and plans to open more in Riverside County, wanted to renovate a 3,966-square-foot building at Highway 371 and Bautista Road to offer on-site cannabis sales and deliveries.
Located between Temecula and Hemet, Anza has dealt with illegal cannabis grows that proliferated after California voters legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2016.
Anza residents have blamed the grows for noxious odors and luring a heavily armed criminal element that they say steals water and power. Cannabis also has its advocates in Anza who believe a well-planned, legal cannabis industry can bring prosperity.
The Sheriff’s Department in recent years has stepped up efforts to crack down on illegal cannabis crops. And at Monday’s hearing on the new county budget, Code Enforcement Director Bob Magee told supervisors his department has “all but eradicated illegal outdoor grows in Anza.”
While many cities ban cannabis commerce, the county allows it in unincorporated areas such as Anza. The county has approved 23 permits for cannabis retailers and “microbusinesses” — cannabis ventures with several components — and six permit holders are up and running in non-city areas.
The Anza dispensary’s proposed hours were 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with deliveries ending at 9 p.m. Plans called for 30 parking spaces, 24-hour security cameras, a security guard during business hours and a ban on consumption at the site. Sean St. Peter, of Cannabis 21+, told supervisors the proposed site was well-suited for a dispensary, with a turnout lane and left-hand turn lane to handle traffic. He said his business would be engaged in the Anza community while creating tax revenue and jobs.
Critics, however, worried the dispensary would bring traffic, intoxicated drivers and crime. Most of the 20 people who spoke at Tuesday’s hearing opposed the project, with some objecting to its proximity to a school bus stop.
The Anza Municipal Advisory Committee, a citizens panel, voted to oppose the dispensary, which also faced pushback from several local churches.
“It is our firm conviction that this undertaking will not benefit our community but, in fact, will result in harm and destructive issues for our families and our youth,” said Robert Reece, a former pastor at an Anza church.
Rich Handy of Aguanga, who said he goes to church near the proposed site, told supervisors: “This is supposed to be a family community, not a cannabis community. We’ve been trying to get rid of the growers and (we’ve been) making good progress on that. But this just seems like a step backwards going the other way.”
Anza resident Dave Dolan said he stood outside the Anza post office and got 124 petition signatures opposing the dispensary in less than two hours.
The dispensary’s owners “want to change the face of our community and I don’t like that,” he said.
Dani Rascon spoke in favor of the project. Rascon, who said she “micro-doses” cannabis oil before bed to deal with pain from degenerative scoliosis and other ailments, said she gathered 60 signatures from supporters in two days in Anza and Mountain Center.
Many local residents support the dispensary but are fearful of speaking up, Rascon told supervisors.
“Please say yes to humans on our mountain who want to legally exercise their right to the medicine and recreation of their choice,” she said.
Supervisor Chuck Washington, who represents Anza, said he’s “not naive enough to not think that no one in Anza Valley is using cannabis,” although he doubts customers would drive to the dispensary from Temecula and other places.
Washington said he opposed the project “not because I agree with (those) who spoke against it. Quite honestly, 95% of what you said, I don’t agree with. I don’t think your facts are right.”
“But what I signed up for in doing this job is to respect my communities and what they look and feel like,” Washington added. “And I think this would have a detrimental effect on just the feel of Anza Valley.”
Washington and supervisors Kevin Jeffries and Karen Spiegel voted to deny the permit. Supervisor V. Manuel Perez abstained and Supervisor Jeff Hewitt was absent.
In an emailed statement after the vote, St. Peter said: “”After investing millions to provide residents of Riverside County with safe access to tested, taxed cannabis products in a secure, compliant manner, we are, of course, very disappointed that the supervisors, who voted in conflict with the Planning Commission and their own staff’s recommendation, appeared to have been influenced by such a small portion of the community.
“We are confident that our proposed plan is 100% within the County’s regulations and the citizens’ best interests, and will ultimately become a reality.”