Let’s get the jokes out of the way first.
We’re not renaming the city “POT Hueneme” or “Port HIGHneme.” Nor are we rebranding the city to “Port Hueneme, where the GRASS is greener” or “Hueneme isn’t just about HIGHER education.” And no, Cheech and Chong will not be filming their sequels here (although they haven’t asked).
The cannabis industry is the subject of thousands of jokes that share one thing in common — they are antiquated views left over from the pot culture of the 1960s. What many folks don’t realize is that cannabis in California, as a legitimate industry, has already been approved by the voters.
The modern and relevant view of cannabis is that it is a medically proven cure for hundreds of ailments that have eluded traditional treatment. It has given relief to people suffering from epilepsy, effects of cancer, anxiety and other psychological disorders. It is far more preferable than opioids that have hooked millions into an addiction that frequently leads to the death of the user.
Port Hueneme will be the first city in Ventura County to recognize and license the cannabis industry as a medical provider.
At the same time, allowing this immensely regulated industry into our city is going to offer significant relief to our city budget and to our citizens. Few industries are growing as rapidly as cannabis so there is immense potential relief to our budget in future years.
We are following through on what California voters and legislators have deemed to be legal. They approve of the medical marijuana industry and we are implementing that edict. California voters have also approved recreational marijuana, but that is not what the Port Hueneme City Council has authorized.
As a separate, but complimentary effort, the City Council has already begun a process to sell one or more properties it owns to generate near and long-term revenues. It is very likely that anyone of those sites will attract a bidder who would either grow, manufacture, sell and/or distribute cannabis products.
Should that occur, the Cannabis Ordinance requires public outreach, that at a minimum, includes a noticed public hearing to consider the concerns of nearby residents and property owners. One such example is a municipal service yard located along Industrial Avenue for which a community meeting has already been scheduled.
Our outreach efforts to inform the community and troubleshoot the ordinance have been extensive. We have engaged local elected officials, law enforcement authorities and industry representatives in the dialogue. We have made every reasonable effort to accommodate the concerns and competing interests of those most affected. We are clearly out of the shadows and operating in a manner that allows regular inspection and tight regulation.
The implementation of this ordinance could translate to hundreds of thousand dollars to our city each year. There is no other use of property within the city that could raise this kind of money in the immediate future. We owe it to our residents, businesses and property owners to exhaust every potential source of revenue that does not entail new taxes.
Our intent is to start slowly with this ordinance and expand cannabis operations over time. This will give us the benefit of learning from best practices in other cities.
It isn’t easy to be first at something. You take all the blows and the snide remarks. When you’re on the ropes financially, it’s better that you advantage yourself before the wave crashes and takes you under. For our city, I prefer to get it right and be first at something, then watch other communities do what we could have done.
Licensing for the cannabis industry is the right move for the City of Port Hueneme and the citizens we serve.
Thomas Figg is mayor of Port Hueneme.