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Adult-use cannabis gets thumbs down from Council

HANFORD — As the vote tally popped up on the screen inside the Hanford City Council Chambers on Tuesday, several people stood up and walked out of the room.

The people were executives of commercial cannabis businesses, and the 4-1 vote was against allowing these businesses to manufacture adult-use cannabis in Hanford.

During its regular meeting on Tuesday, Council continued the discussion they started on March 20 involving amending a city ordinance to allow both medical and adult-use commercial cannabis businesses to locate in Hanford.

Due to emergency cannabis regulations enacted in December, the state essentially created a wall between medical and adult-use cannabis business dealings, which is expected to cause a shrinkage in the medical cannabis market.

During the March 20 meeting, Council members had differing views on allowing adult-use cannabis, also known as recreational use, because Council initially chose to only go the medical cannabis route.

Besides a few grammatical changes, the proposed amendment would have removed the word “medical” from the ordinance and leave the all-encompassing word “cannabis.”

The cannabis companies that were awarded permits to locate in Hanford’s Industrial Park implored council to amend the ordinance so that they could generate the proper revenue for themselves and the city.

“A change to this ordinance is literally the difference of millions of dollars into the city’s coffers and hundreds of jobs within this community,” Jose Rivas, CEO of Premium Extracts Inc., said during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Besides those who are directly involved in the cannabis businesses, several citizens spoke about the issue during public comment. Opinions were split, with six people speaking in favor of a change to the ordinance and five people speaking against it.

When it was time to vote, the decision was an overwhelming 4-1 “no” decision with Mayor David Ayers, Vice Mayor Sue Sorensen, Councilman Martin Devine and Councilwoman Diane Sharp casting votes against the proposed ordinance amendment.

Councilman Justin Mendes, who was the only “yes” vote in the decision, said on Wednesday that he was surprised by the vote, especially because Council decided on implementing a tax measure previously in the meeting.

“I thought we would put the question on the ballot, amend the ordinance and later discuss additional ballot questions to gather community thoughts,” Mendes said.

While he commended Council members Sharp and Devine, who both opposed allowing adult-use cannabis manufacturing, for “sticking to their guns”, Mendes did say he was surprised by Ayers’ and Sorensen’s “no” votes.

“She could have just let it die for lack of a motion,” Mendes said of Sorensen, who had seconded his motion.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Sorensen said it was a tough decision to make, but ultimately she felt like Council should not go back on the promise it made to the community to only allow medical cannabis businesses.

She said in talking with community members, they were comfortable with the idea of medical cannabis and supported the city dealing with that industry.

Sorensen said she feels like more education and conversations can be conducted with a broader set of the community and with the city’s newest council member, Sharp, who won her seat in the midst of the city’s journey into the cannabis industry.

“I want the opportunity to see if maybe others are unaware of the issue and give them a chance to share their concerns and help us make an informed decision,” Sorensen said.

Sorensen said the decision is not absolute and can be brought back again before the Council at the request of a member who voted in the majority.

“I don’t feel an emergency or pressure that we need to make this change today,” Sorensen said.

On Wednesday, Rand Martin, vice president of governmental affairs for Caliva, said the company is trying to figure out what the decision means for the company’s ability to move forward in Hanford.

“This makes it very uncertain,” Martin said about Caliva’s future in Hanford, adding the company will have to decide on a course of action soon.

While Martin could not give a definitive answer at the moment, he did say he believes the Council’s decision will leave the city out of a substantial amount of tax revenue that would be generated from adult-use cannabis production.

Mendes said he agrees with industry consultants that the medical cannabis market is going to decline and affect Hanford’s plans.

“If we’re not going to allow adult-use, companies aren’t going to invest here,” Mendes said.

Mendes said his only regret in the whole situation was all the time Community Development Director Darlene Mata and Police Chief Parker Sever put into researching the cannabis industry and crafting a stringent application and permitting process for the businesses.

“In one vote the Council decides to go in a different direction,” Mendes said. “That’s two years of time they could have spent addressing other needs.”

Mendes said without tax revenue generated from commercial adult-use cannabis production, he believes the city will not have enough money to combat all the problems that are already coming with state legalized cannabis use, like youth consumption and driving under the influence.

“The solution was supposed to be taxing the legal to fight the illegal,” Mendes said. “That’s now gone.”


Lemoore
Lane closure set for southbound SR-41

LEMOORE — For at least 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday, drivers heading toward State route 41 and Grangeville Avenue intersection should expect delays, the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) said.

Caltrans is scheduled to do some slab replacement work, weather permitting. The weather service says there is to be a storm this weekend with the majority of rainfall on Friday and Saturday.

The intersection will not be completely closed but traffic is to be significantly delayed.

Most of the work will be done in lane two, the right lane, heading southbound on SR-41.

Caltrans has indicated that the right lane will be closed from just north of the intersection to almost 0.2 miles south of the intersection.

The traffic signals at the intersection will be set to blink red to indicate to treat the intersection like a stop sign.

The left turn lane for northbound drivers on SR-41 who wish to turn westbound on Grangeville Avenue will be closed. Those drivers will need to make the left from lane one, the left lane.

The scheduled construction is to take place Saturday and Sunday 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. and could continue for longer.

The workers are to replace two road slabs this weekend. In two weeks, Caltrans plans to do a similar closure to replace two more slabs.

Caltrans suggests taking alternative routes if possible and checking quickmap.dot.ca.gov for traffic updates.


NOE GARCIA, The Sentinel 

Lemoore No. 2 singles player Earl Magno returns a shot during a singles match in a West Yosemite League match against Hanford on Wednesday.


Lemoore
top story
Police: Crime in Lemoore lower in 2017

LEMOORE— Lemoore Police Chief Darrell Smith presented the annual crime report for 2017 at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Smith said there were 787 major crimes in 2017, which was down by 20 incidents from 2016. But while overall numbers were down, there was a rise in homicides, sexual assaults, assaults and robbery from 2016. 

Major crimes by category and number were:

Homicides: three

Rapes: 20

Robberies: 21

Assaults: 308

Larcenies: 267

Auto thefts: 75

Burglaries: 93.

Smith said that 2017 had an overall low in major crimes when compared to the previous four years.  However, after having seen only one homicide between 2013 and 2016, there were three in 2017. 

 “I take violent crimes personally,” Smith said. “Our goal for 2018 is zero in the violent crimes area, and I know it may not be possible but it is going to be my commitment and effort to you.”

In addition, Smith reported that traffic accidents were down year over year from 206 in 2016 to 181 in 2017 and there were no traffic fatalities. 

Smith also noted that Lemoore has 98 different neighborhood watch groups and 21 volunteers in policing. Smith said that with the 6,589 hours logged by volunteers, the community involvement and the problem-oriented policing task force; LPD is taking a more proactive approach to solving crime and disorder in the community.

During Council discussion of the report, Smith was asked if the department would like more funds for the PAL - the Police Athletic League. He responded that currently community donations are enough to sustain the youth program, but he would appreciate funds for more officers to help further decrease response times.

Currently, the LPD reports that overall response times are close to five minutes from receipt of the call to when an officer arrives. Smith boasted that the department responds to all calls they are dispatched to.

Smith also said retention amongst his staff is high. He credits the ability to keep his staff and recruit more members to the force to the amount of money allocated to the department by the city.

The full report can be found attached to the agenda from the April 3 meeting. To see it, go to bit.ly/2q5OI17.


Washington
AP
US and China threaten tariffs as fears rise

WASHINGTON — The world's two biggest economies stand at the edge of the most perilous trade conflict since World War II. Yet there's still time to pull back from the brink.

Financial markets bounced up and down Wednesday over the brewing U.S.-China trade war after Beijing and Washington proposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of each other's products in a battle over the aggressive tactics China employs to develop its high-tech industries.

"The risks of escalation are clear," Adam Slater, global economist at Oxford Economics, wrote in a research note. "Threats to the U.S.-China relationship are the most dangerous for global growth."

There's time for the two countries to resolve the dispute through negotiations in the coming weeks. The United States will not tax 1,300 Chinese imports — from hearing aids to flamethrowers — until it has spent weeks collecting public comments. It's likely to get an earful from American farmers and businesses that want to avoid a trade war at all costs.

Also, China did not say when it would impose tariffs on 106 U.S. products, including soybeans and small aircraft, and it announced it is challenging America's import duties at the World Trade Organization.

Lawrence Kudlow, the top White House economic adviser, sought to ease fears of a deepening trade conflict with China, telling reporters that the tariffs the U.S. announced Tuesday are "potentially" just a negotiating ploy.

"We're very lucky that we have the best negotiator at the table in the president, and we're going to go through that process," said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "It will be a couple months before tariffs on either side would go into effect and be implemented, and we're hopeful that China will do the right thing."

The prospect of a negotiated end to the dispute calmed nerves on Wall Street. After plunging in early trading, the Dow Jones industrial average ended up rising 231 points, or nearly 1 percent, to 24,264.

The sanctions standoff started last month when the United States slapped tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. On Monday, China countered by announcing tariffs on $3 billion worth of U.S. products. The next day, the United States proposed the $50 billion in duties on Chinese imports, and Beijing lashed back within hours with a threat of further tariffs of its own.

Things could easily escalate. The U.S. Treasury is working on plans to restrict Chinese technology investments in the United States. And there's talk that the U.S. could also put limits on visas for Chinese who want to visit or study in this country.

For its part, China conspicuously left large aircraft off its sanctions list Wednesday, suggesting it is reserving the option to target Boeing if relations deteriorate further.

Douglas Irwin, a Dartmouth College economist who has just written a history of U.S. trade policy, said the tit-for-tat tariffs are shaping up as the biggest trade battle since World War II.

"It's huge," he said.

In 1987, the Reagan administration triggered shockwaves by slapping tariffs on just $300 million worth of Japanese imports — that's million with an "m'' — in a dispute over the semiconductor industry. Those tariffs covered less than 1 percent of Japanese imports at the time.

The tariffs the U.S. unveiled Tuesday apply to nearly 10 percent of Chinese goods imports of $506 billion.

And during the dispute three decades ago, Japan, a close U.S. ally, chose not to retaliate. It eventually gave in to U.S. demands.

"What we've seen with China is very different," Irwin said. "When the steel tariffs went in — boom, they came back with retaliation. ... They were not going to take it lying down."

Making matters trickier, the dispute over Chinese technology policy strikes at the heart of Beijing's ambitions to become the global leader in cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

In August, President Donald Trump ordered the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to investigate China's tech policies, particularly longstanding allegations that it coerces U.S. companies into handing over sensitive technology to gain access to the Chinese market. The tariffs proposed Tuesday were the result of that investigation.

The U.S. also accuses China of treating U.S. companies unfairly when they try to do business there and of encouraging Chinese hackers to break into U.S. corporate computer systems and steal trade secrets.

The Trump administration is coming under intense pressure to de-escalate the dispute. American farmers, who disproportionately supported Trump in the 2016 election, are especially outspoken in seeking trade peace. After all, China buys nearly 60 percent of American soybean exports.

"American farmers are waking up this morning to the prospect of a 25 percent tax on exports that help sustain their farming operations," said former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, co-chair of Farmers for Free Trade. "We urge the administration to reconsider escalating this trade war."

Some analysts predict Beijing will ultimately yield to U.S. demands because it relies far more heavily on the U.S. market than American businesses rely on China's.