Community clashes over cannabis companies


Members of a local union show up in force for an El Monte city council meeting. (Matthew Salcido/UT)

Matthew Salcido, Community News Reporter

The city of El Monte drew fire – and nearly 100 people to a council meeting – this month over proposals to bring two marijuana cultivation, manufacturing and distribution facilities to town.

The council approved the developments in a 4-1 council vote, with Council Member Jessica Ancona dissenting.

Members of Teamsters Local Union 630 showed up to support the proposal because of the economic benefits while some city residents criticized the council for siding with what they called powerful interests, the cannabis industry and the union.

“The council members just listen to money, not people’s voices,” said Juli Liu, a California attorney and Chinese law expert witness, who is against the facilities.

Greenpro Enterprise applied with the city to build a marijuana facility at 4377 Baldwin Avenue and Flourish Plant Science asked to develop one at 4411 Rowland Avenue, according to the council agenda.

City residents and others passionately made their case before the council.

Ron Williams, a member of the Greater Los Angeles Communities Alliance — a volunteer group of LA residents who seek to help inform the community on issues pertinent to the greater LA area — spoke against the proposal during the meeting. In an interview after the meeting, he said, “We want to preserve El Monte, and I want to be

able to stay living here. They [the council] aren’t listening to us, and there seems to be no clarity here. That’s why we’re speaking out.”

Cary Chen, an El Monte resident who attended the council meeting, said she was disappointed by the council’s decision: “The council may say this is clearly a medicinal issue but I believe it’s an excuse, especially when they are offering cookies. Why do patients need the cookies and gummy bears?”

Other members of the community also showed up in droves to support the council’s decision, praising the approval of the facilities.

Lou Villalvazo, secretary treasurer for Teamsters Local Union 630 in downtown Los Angeles, said he and other members showed up to represent about 7,000 union workers in both food and drug departments, including some who are El Monte residents.

Villalvazo applauded the council’s decision, saying the move can create more middle-class jobs for city residents thanks to municipal hiring rules.

“The city must hire a percentage of residents from the city of El Monte and they have to have a labor peace agreement,” he said.

Villalvazo added that the new facilities will generate more tax revenue, which “will benefit residents of El Monte, as it allows the city to provide resources to the community and for things to be done right, through the city and its police department.”

Community News reporters are enrolled in JOUR 3910 – University Times. They produce stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected]