What was supposed to be a discussion on developing a permitting system for cannabis growers, quickly turned into a conversation of what was an appropriate garden size in Nevada County.
At the fourth Community Advisory Group meeting Tuesday, Nevada County Building Director Craig Griesbach gave a brief presentation about the building permitting process for non-cannabis projects, which he said would be similar for cannabis farmers looking to permit greenhouses, grading and as-built structures.
The CAG, as it is now known, is a group of 16 community members picked to develop recommendations for a permanent cannabis cultivation ordinance to the the Board of Supervisors. They will meet five more times before drafting a document county staff can turn into policy by March of 2018.
Community Development Director Sean Powers followed up with presentation that included photographs of code violations at cannabis grows featuring overloaded electrical outlets, as well as before-and-after aerial photographs of parts of the county featuring several cannabis farms.
“We are getting into very exceptionally large operations,” Powers said while showing pictures of greenhouses that could not have been any larger than 2,000 to 3,000 square feet. “This is what we don’t want to see in Nevada County.”
“Two or three thousands square feet is not a major operation,” said Mark Schaeffer, CAG member and a board member of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance.
Forrest Hurd, a cannabis activist and CAG member, also took issue with how Powers categorized the grows he showed in the slides. He said some of the photographs did not represent what major grows are and explained that several of the pictures shown were more in lined with the smallest operation size under the state licensure system than with the mega grows Powers said he fears.
“I don’t know who the “We” is when we are talking about what we want to see in Nevada County. I think that is what WE are here to do,” said CAG member Forrest Hurd referring to the CAG panel. “When you say ‘WE’ and ‘what we want to see’ it seems as if there is already a plan.”
Although several CAG members have expressed the need to create a transition period for cannabis growers to come into compliance with building codes while being able to operate, county staff lack enthusiasm over the idea and said they would only issue cannabis permits to farms that were in full compliance.
However, it is ultimately up to the CAG and to come up with recommendations for a new cannabis ordinance. The Board of Supervisors will have final say on what the ordinance will look like and county departments like Community Development will have to implement the new regulations.
During the public comment section of the meeting, some professionals came out of the cannabis closet to announce they were either users for medical conditions or growers of medical cannabis.
Several farmers also stated their need to have gardens sizes that were in alignment with what the state allows in order to remain competitive in the statewide market.
“I’m a father of three and I run and own my own small farm and I really want to comply and want a clear pathway to do this,” said David Cooper. “[2500 square feet] is not really all that big. Size has to be something that has to be functional for us to be in this industry. Get educated on what’s happening. There are good people out there who really want to comply. People who really want to comply will, and the ones that won’t will really stand out.”
Rosemary Metrailer closed her remarks with this bit of advice for her fellow CAG members: “We have to make sure that whatever we propose is not viewed as punitive, but as supportive of what already exists in the county by making it better.”
To submit comments, email CAGmeetingcomments@migcom.com