Woodlake considers commercial marijuana


At the Woodlake City Council meeting on Monday June 12, elected officials considered a proposal for large-scale marijuana cultivation in industrial zones within Woodlake’s city limits.  Jason Waters, community services director for the City of Woodlake, outlined a plan that could potentially add jobs and tax revenue. The monies could be used for vital services like road maintenance, law enforcement, and beautification projects.
Community members voiced concerns about aiding the criminal element and adding to the law enforcement burden in Woodlake. Other attendees testified in the public hearing that the measure would take money away from the drug cartels that operate illegally and divert it to small businesses.   
A number of supporters stated that cannabis has had a prominent presence in the Valley for decades and will continue to be here, so it’s only logical to put infrastructure into effect that benefits the community at large.  
“We will see the final results of the town survey at the meeting on Monday, June 26, when we will continue the public hearing and possibly make a final decision on a city ordinance for marijuana cultivation,” reported Ramon Lara, city administrator. “Every aspect of cultivation, distribution, and sales would be taxed for the City of Woodlake. The jobs the new industry would add could also be a great benefit.”  
In 2016, Proposition 64 was passed by California voters with 57 percent; in Woodlake, the measure passed with 54 percent of the vote. Prop 64 allows any individual over 21 to smoke cannabis, possess up to an ounce of cannabis, and cultivate up to six plants on private property.  
According to city administrators, commercial cannabis firms are anxious to get started, but also know they must have the support of the community.
Starting January 1, 2018, there will be a state excise tax of 15 percent on retail cannabis sales.  Personal growers would not be taxed.  
If an ordinance is adopted in Woodlake, nurseries and dispensaries would be required to be located at least 1,000 feet away from schools and provide security cameras, fencing, key card access, proper lighting, 24/7 police and city access, and exhibit no signage. After all necessary building and planning permits are in place, the city could shut down any nursery or commercial outlet not in compliance.  
“We are not here to be the moral police,” said Rudy Mendoza, Woodlake’s mayor. “We will welcome partnerships that benefit our community. It’s necessary that we put a system in place that can control this activity.”
Waters said after Monday’s meeting that the decision to implement these plans could be finalized as soon as the July 10 Woodlake City Council meeting. 

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