Nevada County to pick Cannabis Consultant



Nevada County Cannabis Consultant Update

Nevada County officials requested proposals from qualified companies in December that would help the county mediate the stakeholder process for a permanent cannabis cultivation ordinance. The consultant’s job is not so much to write the ordinance but to create and implement a process in which the needs and wants of all the different stakeholders are taken into consideration in the ordinance writing process.

Nevada County officials selected a list of finalists that were interviewed Tuesday Feb 14, and they expect to have a final decision by the end of this week as to which of those finalists will be selected for contracting. The contract will likely be awarded on March 14 at the Board of Supervisors meeting.

Here is a breakdown of who the finalists are and some background on the type of work they do:


HdL Companies, of Diamond Bar, CA: From its website: HdL has established a specialized division with expert staff that have been working closely with the Department of Consumer Affairs, Department of Food and Agriculture, Department of Public Health and the State Board of Equalization in the implementation of the Medical Marijuana Regulatory and Safety Act (MMRSA). In addition, our staff has partnered with the League of California Cities, CSAC, and the Police Chiefs Association to develop  policy and regulatory strategies to manage the Cannabis Industry in California. We offer the resources and expertise to assist cities and counties with the design and implementation of all aspects of their regulatory and taxation policies and programs.  

HdL Companies has emerged as the “go-to” consultant for municipalities and counties wanting to develop regulations, as well as tax and permitting regulations for their jurisdictions. The company has developed cannabis guidelines and regulations in other places. In Nevada County they already hold a contract to provide “audit” services focused on finding errors in the allocation of sales taxes between political subdivisions or other reporting errors. In performing their regular audits, HdL searches State records and performs visual canvasses of our unincorporated area. Once an error is discovered, the county can recover the past 8 quarters of sales taxes.

HdL’s 15 percent audit fee is paid on these prior quarters’ receipts plus on receipts of the future 8 quarters.

However, HdL Companies has made headlines in the cannabis community over the past six years over several controversies involving conflict of interests and promoting high taxation rates for regulating cannabis while benefiting from high commission rates for taxes collected. Here are a few links to news stories:


MIG, Inc., of Berkeley: From its website: MIG designs and implements multi-leveled, well-documented involvement processes aimed at increasing public confidence in decision-making. With more than 25 years of expertise, our community outreach process focuses on developing common objectives and providing a full range of successful strategies for achieving those objectives.

MIG’s work has focused on big municipal projects that needed public input such as a transportation strategy plan for the Spokane region and a watershed management plan for the Folsom region. They don’t seem to have experience with the cannabis industry, but understand the process of taking stakeholder input well. Being impartial to the cannabis industry may be a positive thing if the county decides to bring cannabis industry experts into the stakeholder process.


Network Environmental Systems, of Folsom: From its website: NES has been providing Environmental Consulting Services to a multitude of clients since 1987. Over that time, our clients have included various manufacturers, commercial/retail entities, construction companies, trade associations, hospitals/health care providers, law firms, colleges/universities/school districts and federal, state and local municipalities including regulatory agencies. Our clients benefit from the vast experiences of our professional staff. The NES environmental consulting team provides customized solutions to compliance issues in a timely and cost-effective manner. We apply proven risk management concepts to the goal of solving environmental issues in partnership with our clients.

We are not sure why the county would select this firm to be in the top five. Nothing in its website indicates they have done mediation work in the past. There is also no information regarding whether they have any experience with the cannabis industry. The only plus we see is that they have some experience with compliance issues and could help put together a system that would allow the county to check whether cultivators are in compliance with current county code before granting them a license or permit.


Health Management Associates, of Lansing, Michigan: From their website: Health Management Associates (HMA) is a leading independent national research and consulting firm in the healthcare industry. Founded in 1985, today we are more than 165 consultants strong and still growing. We help clients stay ahead of the curve in publicly funded healthcare by providing technical assistance, resources, decision support and expertise.

This is another wild card. It’s not clear why the county placed this company in the top five. They have experience dealing with policy analysis, government, strategic planning, and organizational development. On its website they say they are also skilled at developing partnerships and engaging stakeholders from across the community. However most of the work has been done for the “big” healthcare industry.


Consensus Building Institute, of Cambridge, Massachusetts: From their website: When faced with challenging, complex, multi-party issues every funder, convener, and participant wants to know: Is there a chance we can work out our differences? What collaborative process should we use, and who should be involved?  Will the costs and risks be too high for us to proceed? CBI has developed a comprehensive and proven method to answer these questions and more — bringing our well-tested theory of Mutual Gains negotiation and our broad, substantive expertise to bear when conducting stakeholder assessments.  CBI’s assessment reports are readable and comprehensive — and as professional neutrals, we know what it means to guarantee confidentiality.

The Consensus Building Institute is by far the most neutral of the top five finalists. Not only are they a not-for-profit, which means they won’t charge astronomical amounts of taxpayer money for their services, but they also teach negotiation and conflict resolution at model academic organizations such as Harvard School of Law and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As we have learned in the past cannabis is a highly contentious issue in our community and the building of a permanent cultivation ordinance will require fair, balanced and educated mediation. The Consensus Building institute would likely get all the most important stakeholders at the table, while their staff, which brings decades experience brokering agreements and building collaboration in high-stakes environments builds consensus on what is needed for a small, cottage responsible cannabis industry on our county to thrive. The downside is that they would have to come from the East Coast and that’s likely not cheap. Mediating the regulation of land use and land use issues is their forte, though.


Here is a list of all the initial applicants:

Harmonic Engineering,

Berry Dunn,

Coalition for Common Sense Regulation,

Consensus Building Institute,

Greenberg Traurig,

HdL Companies,

Health Management Associates,

Judith Talbot,

Lytle Consulting,

Menlo Lab,

MGO Advisory Services,

MIG Inc.,

Network Environmental Systems, Inc.,

Pistil and Stigma,

Seth Schapiro

Tsao Consulting.


Here are some links to stories from The Union:

Copy of RFP