First CAG Meeting Update

By Maria Herrera

GRASS VALLEY, CA — Nearly a year after Measure W was formidably defeated, the much anticipated stakeholder process for a cannabis cultivation ordinance officially began Tuesday with a meeting at the Foothills Event Center that left standing room only for members of the public.

The group, now commonly known as CAG, consists of 16 local residents. It was recently formed by MIG, Inc., the facilitator county officials hired for nearly $110,000 to help usher in a new cultivation ordinance.

The meeting began with an introduction to the process. Daniel Iancafano, one of MIG Inc’s principals, will be facilitating the CAG meetings and the recommendations process through March of 2018.

Iacafano is considered an expert in the areas of community participation, consensus building, and facilitation. He has facilitated projects in the past that have addressed issues such as public transit, housing, economic development, land use and regional growth.

“The mission is to gather and analyze input from Nevada County community members, to advise the supervisors and formulate recommendations that county staff can use to device a county ordinance,” Iacafano said. “There will be a set of operating principles, notably transparency…We want to share relevant facts and information.”

The process is similar to those conducted in other counties, such as Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties, where stakeholders and task forces met with county staff and other facilitators to come up with a list of recommendations that informed those counties’ cultivation ordinances.

The group will meet June 13 and 27, July 11 and 25, Aug 8 and 22 and Sep 12. The last two meetings, when the group is expected to draft final recommendations, will be closed to the public. Iacafano said the recommendations will be presented to county staff, who will write a draft ordinance. From there, it will move to the county’s Planning Commission before it lands at the Board of Supervisors’ table.

“There will be a lot of work and potentially additional meetings scheduled in between. We may want to bring you back,” Iacafano said. “It may be the prerogative of the BOS to do so….I’m not sure if now that you are members of the CAG, if this is a lifetime commitment.”

After a short presentation about the history of cultivation regulations in Nevada County by Sean Powers, Director of the Community Development Agency, all of the members introduced themselves. See the list of CAG members and a short bio by clicking HERE.

Iacafano then listed a few key findings or themes that MIG had already gathered from the community — economic impact, odor mitigation, youth access, best management practices, environmental impacts, land use and zoning, proper packaging and labeling of cannabis products, and traffic impact on rural roads.

“Clearly there was a lot of disagreement about the value of [cannabis] activity,” Iacafano said. “We also had a lot of people comment on the idea of compliance. How do we get people from the shadows into the light? Whatever rules we develop there have to be incentives for people to comply.”

Members of the CAG, then contributed their own theme to the list, which Iacafano wrote on a board. Here are a few of their comments:

Jonathan Collier: “With the written regulation that are provided by the state, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They will provide a baseline along with the ordinance that we do have. We also need to provide a pathway to compliance. We have been cultivation centric, but for the industry to work out, the rest of the license types that create a fully functional cannabis industry must be considered. I also think the patients perspective often gets left out.”

Pamela Swartz: “i’m extremely concerned about the environmental impact, that does not apply to just cannabis but other agricultural activity. The number of wildlife fars exceeds the number of people. As far as youth, we all grew with our parents saying don’t do this or that. Some of this has to do with parenting techniques. My jobs is not to parent other people’s children. We need to be clear on what we are saying.”

Leland French: “The major thing I’m concerned about is the communities and the impact to the communities so people can enjoy the life they moved here to live. One of the things i see throughout the presentation we need to use the right words in the right places. We need to educate the public about the industry. This is not an industry.”

Debra Weistar: “There’s a lot of fears about this. We need to bring about the positive things that are already happening in the community as a result of cannabis. I have three children. This ordinance should not be focused on this. There are a lot worse thing out there. We need to focus on the positive things that are already happening in the community.”

Don Bessee: “We will have ongoing educating each other on prevention. We can have a richer conversation about prevention. The state is grappling with the trailer bill, which is going to be the rules for Prop 64 moving forward. This is ongoing are we precluded from talking to elected in the county about state regulations? Jonathan [Collier] is on the same boat as I am….at the same time is an ongoing conversation.”

Debra Weistar: “I’m hoping the environment and nature is seen as having inherent rights and not seen as a human resource. If we approach it from this perspective, it will broaden our own perspective. There’s no plaque that says ‘Yuba River’ on this table.”

Forrest Hurd: “We started to discuss children and the protection of children. It helps protect children who are dependent, on no fault of their own, and need cannabis. When Dan Miller asked to have the ability to protect children, will we able to write an ordinance that will protect kids with rare conditions? There are a lot of proposals that will be made. I’d like to see a secondary license type for people who are diagnosed with certain conditions.”

Sharyn Turner: “We have to protect our youth…parents often say they would rather have their children using cannabis instead of alcohol or tobacco, but the cannabis today is not what they were used to what they were growing up.”

Mark Schaefer: We all have concerns about Youth Access. A lot of the protection for youth is on the other licensed types. State regulations follow the guidelines there for the protection in terms of labeling, testing and making sure products are not attractive to children. We want to cast the net wide when we start to consider the licenses we want to have in this county. If our goal is to bring people out of the black market and unregulated industry, getting as many people regulated is a way to start solving problems.”

Rich Johansen: this is a process of bringing people into an area. We are so over regulated [in the agricultural industry] is unreal. It’s not going to be an easy process. It’s going to be a pathway. Right now there’s no duty to enforce and i find that really strange. What if we dont enforce until the new ordinance then there is no motivation to make that path and be part of the [regulated] community. Most growers are great growers. It’s going to boil down to land use, zoning, acreage, number of plants, etc.”

Catherine Peterson: Im right in the thick of things. I found that in our freshman class, out of 160 freshman, i had 33 percent being raised by a grandparent or aunt or uncle. The absent parent was no longer with us, or in jail. I don’t want to parent their children, however, on a daily basis i’m called to co-parent.”

Rosemary Metrailer: What I’m concerned about is that we make the regulations in this county as practical and realistic as they can be so the farmers can know what they are expected to do…so that we don’t have a growth here in marijuana enforcement. We have much bigger problems… we have meth folks, and homeless camps.”

Michael Mastrodonato: “One word: data. One of the things i’m concerned about is do we have any accurate data as far as the economic data. I have a lot of concerns about a disproportionate take. If there’s any data available, it will be good if we can get our eyes on it to start. One of the foundations of business is to give back to the community.”

The public also had the chance to chime in. Some suggested that patients and their rights are considered during the ordinance writing process. Others were concerned with the smell during the growing season.

Shelley Salvatore, an organic cultivator and cannabis activist, said she was surprised how little some of the members of the group knew about the current ordinance, state regulations and scientific evidence of cannabis as medicine.

“It’s really important that you as a panel educate yourself,” she said during the public speaking portion of the meeting. “Our county has now spent close to $200,000 on this issue. And I’m tired of being treated as if something is wrong with me for being a cannabis farmer.

Salvatore added that most good actors in the industry would want to abide by regulations that allow them to enter the statewide market.

“The people who don’t care are never going to change so let’s come up with proper solutions for those who do,” Salvatore said.

Ray Darby, a general contractor with the Sustainable Energy Group said his concern is associated with an overly restrictive outdoor ordinance that would drive people to grow indoors.

“There’s an environmental impact no one has mentioned and it is electricity,” Darby said. “About ten percent of California’s household energy usage was associated with indoor growing, and that is really unnecessary. Driving people indoors is counterproductive. There are solutions and we need to look to those solution before we create another power crisis.”

Some residents called upon ending what creates a divisive community on the issue of cannabis. Others urged the panel to issue temporary permits to everyone currently growing in the county.

“Regulations need to look the way things look on the ground now,” said Phil Northcutt. “What i think we should do is issue temporary permits. Everyone gets one. County gets to track what is out there today and gets people in line to apply next year.”

Northcutt added that it was important to push growers into compliance mode by creating these incentives. He sees this as a long process that could create an industry that is in alignment with the economic and cultural values of the county.

“Ten percent of the county should be dedicated to cannabis cultivation: 6,000 acres of cannabis production and in ten years have 50,000 acres of cannabis production,” He said. “We should enjoy what the viticulture enjoys. We should be a thriving cannabis industry.”

The next CAG meeting is June 13 at 2pm at the Foothills Event Center, 400 Idaho Maryland Rd, Grass Valley, CA 95945. Public comment typically begins at 4:30 pm.

For more information about the process visit the county’s page on Cannabis: https://www.mynevadacounty.com/nc/cda/Pages/CannabisConversation.aspx