A central San Joaquin Valley town best known for its dairy industry is slowly inching toward accepting an entirely different type of farming – one that could bring millions of dollars and heavy scrutiny from its conservative neighbors.
The city of Hanford could soon be home to one of the largest commercial marijuana producers in the state.
In October, the City Council debated whether to allow cannabis cultivation after Bay Area company Purple Heart Patient Care offered to transform an industrial park into a 1-million-square-foot facility for marijuana – a move the company said would bring $14 million in annual revenue to Hanford, whose general fund totals $24 million. The council chose caution, directing its staff to visit cities in California and Oregon where medical-marijuana cultivation has already been established.
In the months since, members of the city’s economic and planning staff as well as Hanford police Chief Parker Sever have presented their findings to the council. The governing body then directed staff to draft an ordinance that would allow commercial marijuana cultivation, City Manager Darrel Pyle said Tuesday.
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Pyle stressed the city is not considering allowing marijuana dispensaries – only the wholesale cultivation. Marijuana grown in Hanford would be shipped to other cities across the state for use in their dispensaries.
The ordinance would still require a council vote for approval. But should it pass, Purple Heart and others could start the lengthy permit process required by the city and state to move forward.
Purple Heart owner Keith Stephenson told The Bee in October that the massive facility would be, as far as he knew, the largest cannabis cultivation site in California. Purple Heart would hire 1,100 employees, who would work to produce approximately 180,000 pounds of pot per year.
The Hanford City Council is also considering adding a property tax, similar to those in Coalinga and other cities that have embraced marijuana, to the November 2018 ballot. Coalinga charges $25 per square foot for the first 3,000 square feet and $10 per square foot for anything beyond that. If Hanford followed suit, the taxes generated by Purple Heart’s facility alone could reach $10 million. That would be the bulk of the annual revenue of $14 million.
The ballot measure for Coalinga’s marijuana property tax passed by 22 percentage points last November.