Pubdate: Wed, 18 May 2016
Source: Ukiah Daily Journal, The (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Ukiah Daily Journal
Author: Kate Maxwell


The Board of Supervisors delayed a vote on a proposed cannabis 
cultivation urgency ordinance on Monday, after several hours of 
discussion concerning the permanent ordinance, and some last minute 
changes to the proposed urgency regulations. The item, intended to 
update the county's cannabis regulations for this year, is planned to 
go before the supervisors for a vote Tuesday afternoon and will 
require a four/five vote of approval to pass.

The proposed urgency ordinance is intended to encourage compliance 
with county cannabis regulations to mitigate any further 
environmental damage and threats to public safety while a more 
long-term redrafting of county cannabis regulations and accompanying 
environmental review takes place over this year. It is based on the 
county's 9.31 cultivation program and would be administered by the 
Sheriff's Department, and permit certain growers to cultivate up to 
99 plants per parcel.

Supervisors spent most of the afternoon considering revisions to the 
more permanent regulations, then began a discussion of the urgency 
ordinance, which had seen several changes since first publicly 
released on Friday. Supervisor Brown lamented that the proposed 
changes were not available sooner, to which Supervisor McCowen of the 
Marijuana Ad Hoc Committee replied "they were still being written 
during the lunch hour."

Some of the last minute changes for this year's program include 
allowing cultivators on parcels five acres or more to grow 50 plants 
(with 99 possible on 10 acres parcels), allowing 100 square feet of 
cultivation area to substitute for one plant, permitting cultivators 
to combine plant count or square footage as a measure, and allowing 
for building code amnesty. Another proposed change from the document 
posted with the meeting agenda would make participation in this 
year's program voluntary in regards to enrollment in a future 
permanent county program.

The program would also require enrollees to demonstrate cultivation 
prior to January 1, 2016, either through a receipt from zip-tie 
purchases or other methods yet to be determined. Several members of 
the public requested the specific methods of providing acceptable 
proof of cultivation be determined by the supervisors instead of the 
Sheriff, who will be administering the program.

Sheriff Allman also spoke to the supervisors, emphasizing that 
"Mendocino County has a large amount of very responsible marijuana 
growers," but many were not, and the ones not in attendance "are the 
ones who are going to cause us to ask next year if we're going down 
the wrong road." He said "commercial marijuana in California is a 
felony," and that "as of right now, marijuana cannot be grown 
commercially without the risk of being arrested," adding anyone 
growing for the black market should expect to see enforcement from the Sheriff.

Allman also noted that the department makes about $60,000 annually 
selling zip-ties and recent sales had been brisk. Zip-ties would be 
required for each plant or 100 square feet under the urgency 
ordinance and he implied fees would go up.

During public comment on both the urgency ordinance and the permanent 
ordinance, members of the audience stated that it was important for 
program enrollment that cultivators have assurances that providing 
their garden information to law enforcement would not put them at 
undue risk for prosecution.

Representatives of local marijuana grower groups the California 
Growers Association, the Small Farmers Association, and the Mendocino 
Heritage Initiative all spoke in support of the proposed urgency 
ordinance with the suggested changes.

The proposed urgency ordinance can be found attached to the 
supervisors agenda on the county website; the video of Monday's 
proposed changes is available on the County's youtube page.

Supervisors also conducted a discussion of several proposed changes 
to a permanent ordinance and heard a presentation from Agriculture 
and Planning department staff that was continued from the April 18 
meeting in order to prepare an ordinance and begin planning and 
environmental CEQA reviews.

The permanent ordinance is not expected before December at the 
soonest, and supervisors discussed whether to create an ordinance 
that covered all licensing types or to create a separate ordinance to 
address manufacturing, testing, and distribution. If the ordinance 
requires an environmental impact report the process could until late 
spring 2017.

Once a draft is prepared, there will be a public comment period as 
part of the approval process. Supervisor Brown expressed the need to 
craft an ordinance that tried to address potential concerns, but also 
noted "we're really dragging our feet here."

Chief Planner Andy Gustafson said he recommended looking at a 
combined ordinance but the planning department would research whether 
that would lengthen the potential timeline of approval. Regarding a 
potential building permit amnesty, Gustafson told the board the 2010 
program had left a significant number of permits unprocessed. He also 
outlined the limitations on indoor cultivation in coastal areas due 
to the need for California Coastal Commission permit approval.

Supervisors also discussed fencing requirements, licensing for 
multiple owners per parcel and owners of multiple parcels, setback 
sizes, creating two types of nursery licenses, and expanding 
"cottage" indoor cultivation to 2,000 square feet. What kind of 
cultivation should be permitted on TPZ land, a particularly 
controversial topic, drew much public comment and no clear conclusion 
from the supervisors. Board Chair Gjerde suggested cultivators with 
TPZ properties meet with county staff and forestry experts to craft a 
mutually agreed upon policy.

Supervisors also heard a presentation on cannabis taxes from David 
McPherson of HDL Companies, who is working with several other 
counties to develop local tax policies for cannabis businesses. TWN 
will cover this discussion and proposed statewide cannabis tax 
legislation in an upcoming article.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom