Pubdate: Thu, 15 Oct 2015
Source: North Coast Journal (Arcata, CA)
Column: The Week in Weed
Copyright: 2015 North Coast Journal
Author: Grant Scott-Goforth


Just weeks after the board of supervisors agreed to craft an outdoor 
medical marijuana cultivation ordinance, county staff has released a 
detailed draft ordinance that would create a strict permitting plan 
for the county's cannabis cultivators.

It's a remarkably fast turnaround for a staff that shared concerns 
that it wouldn't be able to get regulations on the books by next 
year. But the draft has raised concerns from the county supervisors 
tasked with bringing an ordinance to fruition.

At a Sept. 15 board meeting, California Cannabis Voice Humboldt 
treasurer Luke Bruner urged the county to take action to regulate 
outdoor cannabis grows, while saying his organization would 
relinquish its year-long, multi-draft attempt to create a law - which 
CCVH at one point said it would put before voters if the county 
didn't approve it.

At the meeting, county staff and supervisors said it would be 
difficult to draft a law, put it through the public vetting process 
and enact it by March 1, when new statewide medical marijuana 
regulations go into effect.

The quick release of the draft ordinance, accompanied by a 66-page 
mitigated negative declaration, indicates the county may have been 
working on its own law for some time. But supervisors Estelle Fennell 
and Ryan Sundberg, assigned to an ad hoc committee to create outdoor 
cultivation regulations, complained that the draft was different than 
what they anticipated.

Speaking on the phone recently, Fennell said the supervisors had 
asked county planning and counsel staff to draft an ordinance based 
on the CCVH framework and input from environmental groups. But the 
draft itself doesn't read much like the final iteration of the CCVH 
draft. CCVH spokesperson Andy Powell told the board of supervisors at 
its Oct. 13 meeting that the ordinance created "an entry point so 
burdensome" that cultivators will contine to operate in the black market.

Of most concern to Fennell is the draft ordinance's requirement that 
people operating grows larger than 2,000 square feet obtain a 
conditional use permit, which she said may "prove too onerous for 
people who want to come into compliance."

She also noted the draft doesn't touch on the agricultural 
commissioner's role in enforcing the ordinance.

Among the highlights of the ordinance:

Cannabis can only be grown on certain land use zones designated 
agriculture exclusive or rural residential agriculture.

Conditional use permits may be issued for grows on commercial 
timberland, forestry recreation or timber production zones only if 
the sites existed prior to Sept. 1, 2015 and are brought into 
compliance with state and county codes.

Grows with cultivation areas larger than 10,000 square feet will only 
be allowed on general agriculture parcels 5 acres or larger with 
particular soils and less than 15-percent slopes. They will also have 
to provide documented water rights or non-diversionary water sources.

The ordinance as drafted contains a complicated tier structure for 
grows located on different types of parcels and ranging up to 43,560 
square feet in canopy size.

Cannabis cultivation will not be principally permitted - grows from 
500 to 2,000 square feet will require a "special permit," while 
smaller grows will require zoning clearance certificates.

Permit applications will require detailed cultivation plans, photos 
of the operation prior to Sept. 1 2015, consent of parcel owners, 
setback plans, consent for onsite inspections, and agreement not to 
divert water between March 1 and Oct. 30.

The bill will be reviewed by the county planning commission on Nov. 
5. Fennell says the supervisors have asked the commission to complete 
its review of the draft by the beginning of January - giving the 
commission two regularly scheduled meetings to do so.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom