Fresno County debates acting on Coalinga's progressive pot proposals

COALINGA, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Coalinga City Council alarmed Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims back in January when they approved of becoming the first city in the county to allow marijuana dispensaries.

The council later put off a final decision but now, they are considering another even more controversial deal, letting a private company turn the empty Claremont Correctional facility in Coalinga, into a marijuana processing factory. Mims suggested the Board of Supervisors speak out against the idea. "What they are looking to do is fix their budget issues by starting commercial marijuana production as well as growing, we don't know what their final decision will be but now is the time to influence their decision."

Coalinga city officials say the prison turned pot farm could generate $2 million a year in revenue. Supervisor Andreas Borgeas joined Mims in being alarmed. "I think we should do something about this."

However, other supervisors, who have made it clear they don't like pot, were reluctant to get involved, noting the county doesn't really have any authority over city governments. Supervisor Debbie Poochigian said, "I am hesitant to stick our nose into Coalinga's business. This is their business. "

Supervisor Henry Perea added, " I am just a little hesitant to try and impose our will on one of our 15 cities."

Coalinga's Police Chief, Michael Salvador was asked to weigh in on the issue, but he didn't-- noting he was an "at-will employee."

"Unfortunately I am between a rock and a hard place ."

Board members decided not to formally act to tell Coalinga what to do. However, Sheriff Mims hoped some would accompany her to the next Coalinga City Council meeting on March 30th, where the city's marijuana future would be discussed. "It would be helpful to have board members come and join me there. "

Among other things the Coalinga city council will discuss is whether to ask voters to consider liberalizing the city's marijuana regulations.

In other marijuana business, a majority of the Fresno County Supervisors voted to continue acting as a sort of court in marijuana growing cases. They decided against hiring a hearing officer to do the job. They held ten such hearings last year, imposing $1,000 a plant fines on some pot growers. However the legality of the county hearing process is being challenged in court and their rulings in some cases are being appealed.
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