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The Weed War in the San Gabriel Valley

Nancy Fang, left, of San Gabriel, Zig Jiang, middle, of Hacienda Heights and Lily Chan, right, of Temple City prepare fliers to distribute against the approval of future marijuana production sites. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

The men and women collecting petition signatures outside Metro Super Market in Temple City warned of a marijuana takeover and greedy politicians eager to speed it along. They accused Andre Quintero, the mayor of El Monte, of wanting to make the San Gabriel Valley famous as a cannabis hub.

Quintero has backed a sprawling marijuana facility in El Monte as the start of a larger effort to make cannabis an economic engine for a working-class, predominantly Latino city that has long suffered from financial woes. He also sees marijuana cultivation as a way of boosting the city’s standing.

“I’ll look at the package and it will say ‘Made in El Monte,’ and I’ll smile,” he said.

But the city’s push into marijuana is facing an extreme backlash from its more well-heeled neighbors in the San Gabriel Valley, who fear cultivation will bring crime and blight.

“You will hear helicopters overhead, people shooting in the street, maybe prostitutes walking around,” said Daniel Ding of Temple City. “It will destroy the city.”

“It’s a war,” said Fenglan Liu, a Temple City resident who lives near the proposed site. “It’s a marijuana war.”

The dispute has sparked loud protests, talk of a political recall and a lawsuit, and laid bare clashing views of what large-scale cannabis production bodes for cities, their residents — and their neighbors. It’s part of a larger debate going on in communities in California and other states that have legalized marijuana, where some struggling cities are trying to lure pot businesses to help increase jobs and boost sagging tax revenue.

The conflict also has underscored the economic imbalance between El Monte, a perennially strapped city where the median household income is $43,500, and nearby cities like Arcadia and Temple City, where many households make twice that. El Monte must look to industries outside “the mainstream” to bring investment and jobs, Quintero said, industries his city’s wealthier neighbors can afford to snub.

Temple City and Rosemead are suing El Monte, alleging that it minimized or simply ignored many of the project’s environmental risks. City attorneys also say El Monte understated the strain on the region’s public safety resources and water supply.

To Read The Rest Of This Article ByShelby Grad and Benjamin Oreskes on Los Angeles Times

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Published: February 07, 2019

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