Officials Move to Ban Marijuana Sales, Cultivation in Parts of Orange County

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David Burr demonstrates removing leaves on marijuana plants to allow more light for growth at Essence Vegas' 54,000-square-foot marijuana cultivation facility on July 6, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

David Burr demonstrates removing leaves on marijuana plants to allow more light for growth at Essence Vegas' 54,000-square-foot marijuana cultivation facility on July 6, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

The Orange County Board of Supervisors granted preliminary approval on Tuesday to a measure that would ban the commercial cultivation and sales of marijuana products in unincorporated areas of the county.

Both recreational and medicinal distribution would be affected under the ordinance, which along with dispensaries prohibits other commercial activities such as lab testing and delivery operations. About 126,000 people live in unincorporated parts of Orange County.

The draft ordinance cites issues of cannabis plants’ smell, the possibility of commercial burglaries, indoor electrical fire hazards and “degradation of the natural environment.”

The measure proposes a $1,000 fine per day for businesses violating the code. However, new rules would focus on commercial operators and make no mention of impinging on personal grows.

Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who cast the sole dissenting vote, noted that every district in Orange County voted in favor of legalization under Prop. 64: “That should mean something,” he said.

However, Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said her decision was influenced by her conversations with four county supervisors in Colorado who raised concerns about “unintended consequences,” such as children sent to the emergency room after ingesting cannabis-infused baked goods.

Diane Goldstein, a retired lieutenant commander at the Redondo Beach Police Department, similarly accused the board of ignoring the voters’ mandate and added that the ordinance goes against common sense.

“Creating excessive barriers through bans takes us two steps backward and will only continue to prop up the illicit market while incurring significant public safety costs,” Goldstein said.

So far, Santa Ana is the lone city in the county to allow retail sales and commercial production, which will be restricted to indoor operations at 20 licensed facilities, according to O.C. Agricultural Commissioner Jeff Croy.

Costa Mesa will permit medical marijuana research and development but not production, he added.

Seal Beach and Lake Forest have yet to make a decision on how they will regulate the drug. If no local regulations are in place by Jan. 1, the statewide rules allowing recreational and medicinal sales and commercial operations will go into effect.

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