In the hills west of Temecula, residents of the De Luz area enjoy a rural lifestyle and scenic views in spacious homes valued at $ 1 million or more.

It’s the wrong place, local residents argue, for Riverside County’s first licensed stand-alone cannabis grower.

Fuego Farms asks the district’s OK to build 17 greenhouses and a 4,800 square meter steel structure to process cannabis in the unincorporated community. The project is on the county’s planning committee’s agenda on Tuesday, October 19, after the committee postponed a vote on September 1 to allow the applicant to do further public relations and address concerns about safety, trucking, odors, and sewer runoff , County spokesman Brooke Federico said via email.

The residents of De Luz, who organized and started a website against Fuego Farms, fear that the project will bring crime, odor, traffic and pollution to a community they love.

“I don’t want to take my guns out of the safe,” Gary Gordon, who said he lived near the planned project, told the planning officer on September 1st. “And when it comes to that, I know that I … too.”

Samuel Hazelip, who proposed the project, said the critics’ fears are based on age-old anti-cannabis propaganda.

“I love De Luz,” Hazelip told the commission. “I don’t want to do anything to harm him.”

The district board of trustees approved a legal framework for pharmacies and other cannabis companies operating in areas outside the cities in 2018. A year later, the county received 119 cannabis business proposals, 69 of which were given the green light to move forward in the planning pipeline.

Since then, only one pharmacy – The Artist’s Tree in Highgrove – has opened, others are still pending approval.

Meanwhile, residents of Aguanga, Anza and other rural communities live without legal personality in the shadow of illegal cannabis plants, which are held responsible for stealing water and electricity, poisoning groundwater with harmful chemicals, and attracting criminal elements. In September 2020, seven people were shot dead while growing illegal cannabis in Aguanga.

It is these fears that the residents of De Luz conveyed to the planning officers.

Vikki Havins said she is concerned that robbers think her van is full of cannabis from Fuego Farms.

“As soon as they find out this could be up here, you’ll see our neighbors running selling their homes on fire and moving in Humboldt County to turn Temecula into a pot farm,” she said at the September meeting. Humboldt County has a reputation for being a cannabis hub.

“Infants, children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems” are “across the street” from the project site, wrote Elizabeth Paxton and Stephen Graves in an email to the county. “This is a serious community health hazard!”

Hazelip, who describes himself as a lifelong organic farmer, said Fuego Farms would have odor-reducing technology, fences, and other features to make it inconspicuous.

“Nobody is going to sit in their front yard looking at a bunch of huge greenhouses,” he said.

Fuego Farms will be “a state-of-the-art facility,” added Hazelip. “We’re not just trying to be compliant, we’re trying to be at the forefront, the leading curve of what cannabis production can be and what it should be within the community.”

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors will have the final say on Fuego Farms.

Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, whose district De Luz belongs to, said via email that he had no position on the project.

Commercial projects in rural agricultural areas can pose “challenges” to providing public services “and maintaining a quiet rural lifestyle for residents,” he said.