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January 18, 2018

Community Update

by Pat Milos, Community Development Director

On April 1, 2016, the City of Cathedral City began taking applications for Conditional Use Permits to allow the Cultivation of medical grade cannabis in the city.  Since that time, the voters of California approved Proposition 64 which effectively made adult recreational use of Cannabis legal in the state.

The combination of those two actions has created a burgeoning Cannabis industry in Cathedral City. Since April 1, 2016, the City has received over 130 applications for various cannabis related licenses, 75 of the licenses involve the cultivation of cannabis.

As the City considered the typical challenges associated with cannabis cultivation facilities, it placed several odor management conditions on cultivation facilities including the following:

The cultivation businesses shall install or provide a sufficient odor absorbing ventilation and exhaust systems so that odor generated inside the Cannabis Business that is distinctive to its operation is not detected outside the Cannabis Business, anywhere on adjacent property or public rights-of-way, on or about any exterior or interior common area walkways, hallways, breeze-ways, foyers, lobby areas, or any other areas available for common use by tenants or the visiting public, or within any other unit located within the same building as the Cannabis Business. As such, Cannabis Businesses must install and maintain the following equipment or any other equipment which the Local Licensing Authority determines has the same or better effectiveness:

  1. An exhaust air filtration system with odor control that prevents internal odors from being emitted externally; or
  2. An air system that creates negative air pressure between the Medical Cannabis Businesses’ interior and exterior so that the odors generated inside the Medical Cannabis Business are not detectable outside the Medical Cannabis Business.

While the Cannabis boom has created some positive effects such as building and lot renovations, employment opportunities, tenant improvements, a boost to the local economy related to construction materials, lighting, HVAC systems, etc.; it has also created some undesirable affects, most notably the pungent odor that is a byproduct of growing and harvesting a healthy Cannabis crop.

Currently, there are 10 Cultivation facilities operating in the City mostly located within the Perez Road corridor. As these businesses have evolved into functioning cultivation facilities some have struggled with their older buildings to control the related odors.  This has generated numerous complaints.

To date, the City has received 33 recorded complaints and we have created an odor specific complaint category for our enforcement software which enables us to track compliance efforts.

The City has reacted by taking a zero-tolerance approach to the issue. Through the Code Compliance Department, we have been actively working with the industry to alleviate the odor. In all complaint cases, the industry has been cooperative and have installed additional HVAC air scrubbing equipment, sealed and replaced doors, windows and access panels, installed deodorization units as well as other fixes. These measures have gained significant improvements in the reduction of the odor issue.

However, this is not the end of the story. To continue to ensure that the industry does not negatively affect the quality of life Cathedral City the Code Compliance Department regularly monitors the regulated Cultivation dispensaries and routinely patrol the businesses. When odor is detected and the source verified, Code Compliance immediately contacts the business owner and presents them with a notice of violation and a timeline to mitigate the smell. We are also looking at requiring additional measures to ensure that the industry can continue to grow and prosper, and at the same time, be an asset to the community. The following measures are currently under consideration by the Planning Commission to become Standard Conditions of Cannabis Cultivation Facilities approvals:

  1. Condition all Cannabis Cultivation Related Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Odor Control plans and blue prints to be stamped by a Licensed HVAC Mechanical Engineer.
  2. Condition that all Cultivation facility window arrays, doors and associated framing systems be renovated to install new glazing compounds and seals.
  3. Condition the installation of automatic closures on all interior and exterior Cultivation facility doors.
  4. Condition all Cultivation related interior and exterior door seals be replaced and adjusted.
  5. Condition the sealing and renovation of all Cultivation facility roll up doors, garage doors and associated systems.
  6. Condition that all roof venting, wall penetrations, panel joints etc.  be sealed.
  7. Condition the installation of Air Curtains on all exterior doors
  8. Condition the placement of anti-odor gels and diffusers near all Cultivation exterior doors and windows.

These proposed conditions will be an item of discussion at the next Planning Commission meeting on February 7, 2018.

Again, I want to stress that the industry has been cooperative and responsive. They understand the stigma this places on them as they strive to be good neighbors, employers, and retailers.

You may also consider that all odor may not be related to the Legal Licensed Facilities. Now more than ever, cannabis is a valuable commodity and there is a still a strong underground market that is illegally cultivating cannabis.  Additionally, our new cannabis laws passed by California voters allow for limited personal, private cultivation to be legal at residential homes.

If you notice the “Skunky” Cannabis odor, please notify the Code Compliance Department, note the location (as specific as possible), and time of day of the occurrence. Code Compliance can be reached at 760-770-0309 or e-mail ajimenez@cathedralcity.gov

News

The next City Council Meeting is January 24, 2018

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