California City police, fire prepare for incoming medical marijuana cultivation industry

Posted at 6:58 PM, Aug 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-23 22:00:38-04
California City is gearing up to be the next big player in the medical marijuana cultivation space.

As 23ABC News has reported in the past, the city has been awarding business licenses to dozens of marijuana businesses in the cultivation, manufacturing and distribution spaces over the past few months.

However, with added industry comes more responsibility.

Both the local fire and police departments are preparing for the added industry, buildings, and people.

The California City Fire Department – already busy with calls – recently added a fire marshal to their staff for the incoming addition of buildings and industry.

“Last year we ran 2,770 calls,” Fire Chief Justin Vincent said. This year they are on track to respond to around 3,000 – an annual number that’s been steadily increasing the past few years.

The fire department put together a full impact report outlining how they plan to prepare for the addition of the medical marijuana business.

“There’s going to be a need for an increase in training. There’s going to be a need for personnel,” Vincent said. “Preparing for that is something every department has to take into account.”

Including the police department.

“Because this is such a new industry, what we’ve done is looked at security measures other cities, counties, and states have done and we’re kind of molding it for what would work best here,” Police Chief Eric Hurtado said.

Hurtado said he plans on hiring more staff to help oversee the medical marijuana operations so he doesn’t have to pull officers who currently patrol the streets.

All of these new hires would be funded by the new marijuana business tax passed in June. The tac would bring up to $15 million a year to the city fund.

The tax will place a $7/square foot tax on indoor grows, $5/square foot on mixed light (sun and artificial), and $1/square foot on natural light grow.

The city set aside 3,500 to 4,500 acres of M1 and M2 zone land earlier this year specifically for medical marijuana cultivation – and lot prices have skyrocketed.

Lots that once went for $8 to $12 thousand now sell for $50 to $80 thousand, according to California City building contractor David Stafford.

Stafford is creating a indoor cannabis grow park on chis 160 acre lot northwest of the city center.

“We’re going to turn it in to one of the most elite cannabis parks in the United States,” he said. “We want people to say that’s what we want in our town once we get done.”

Stafford has been a building contractor here for decades.

“This is the first enterprise to actually come to California City that is gonna be here,” Stafford said. “Things will build around it.”

Stafford is hoping his business park will be up and running by the end of the year.

“I came out of retirement for this,” he said. “This is also for my grandkids. This is their future. I believe in it that much.”