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Final Vote Set on Increasing Retail Pot Permits in Calexico

CALEXICO — The Calexico City Council was to consider the final approval of two cannabis-related amendments to existing city ordinances Nov. 20, including one that would raise the number of retail cannabis permits from seven to 12.

The second ordinance amendment to be considered for final approval was removing industrial hemp from the definition of cannabis.

Votes on both matters, which are part of the council’s consent agenda, were to occur after this newspaper’s deadline. The consent agenda is where numerous issues are approved by the council in one motion and one vote, with no discussion.

Raising the number of retail cannabis permits was preliminarily approved during the council’s Nov. 6 meeting following a public hearing and a vote that split the council 3-1. Council Member Lewis Pacheco voted against raising the number of permits, while Council Member Morris Reisen was absent.

Number of Permits Pondered

Much of the discussion surrounding the retail permits on Nov. 6 involved whether it made sense to approve raising their number if the state still had not issued its “over-concentration numbers.”

City Attorney Carlos Campos explained that is the number of retail permits a city could have based on its population. A current example being used is the state would allow one retail permit for every 10,000 residents.

Pacheco believed that Calexico, with around 40,000 residents, would only be allowed four retail permits and, as such, what the point would be in approving more permits before the state rendered its decision.

The city now has seven retail permits on the books, and six of them have been approved by the city and state so far.

All seven had been approved as of the last council meeting, but since then, a retail permit awarded to Movocan was revoked by the city’s Planning Commission on Nov. 12. The action came because the permit holder was said to be in violation of Section 30 of its conditional-use permit, which says a company must be open six months after the permit is issued.

Other retail permit holders are technically in violation of Section 30 because no retail cannabis businesses are open yet. However, Calexico City Manager David Dale said all the other permit holders have kept the city apprised of where they are in the process of opening, while Movocan allegedly did not respond to the city’s repeated attempts to get a status on its progress.

Vote on Hemp

Meanwhile, the council will consider final approval on removing industrial hemp from the definition of cannabis, an action that is more procedural. As a consultant working with the city explained to the council Nov. 6 before it preliminarily approved the change, the action was intended to bring city ordinances in line with the 2018 federal Farm Bill. It decriminalized industrial hemp federally to allow it to be grown as any other agricultural commodity.

Imperial County officials, economic development experts and some farmers have identified hemp as the county’s next major crop. 

BID Appointment

In other city business Nov. 20, Calexico Mayor Bill Hodge was scheduled to appoint his representative to the city Business Improvement District board. Hodge said Nov. 18 he intended to name Jaime D. Jimenez, marketing manager for Canal 66, a television station in Mexicali.

Hodge said Jimenez, who he had not spoken to as of Nov. 18, has an office on Imperial Avenue and is a Calexico resident. Hodge said it was important to choose a businessman from the Imperial Avenue corridor as not to have uneven representation between Imperial Avenue businesses and downtown businesses.

The council was to also consider appointing one council member and Assistant City Manager Miguel Figueroa to the newly created Imperial Valley Southern Border Committee.

Hodge, who said he would lobby the council to appoint him, said the committee is a creation of Imperial County Board of Supervisors, specifically Calexico-area Supervisor Jesus Escobar. According to information provided by Dale in the Nov. 20 meeting agenda, there are nine Calexico-area vacancies on the committee, including one seat from each board representing the Calexico Unified School District, the Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District, Calexico City Council and Calexico city manager/assistant city manager/city manager designee, and five for Calexico residents at large.

This story is featured in the Nov 21, 2019 e-Edition.

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