The writing of an ordinance was finally set in motion this week, when the Nevada County Board of Supervisors gave county staff general direction on zoning, setbacks and license types at a meeting Tuesday Feb 13.
It’s the moment many farmers have been anxiously waiting for. However, much work still needs to be done and your participation so far is what has made a difference in this process. We need more of that still.
For those of you who missed the meeting last Tuesday here’s a video link: BOS MEETING FEB 13.
It’s easy to say the meeting could’ve gone better and it could’ve been way worse. Overall, there is definitely motion forward. Back and forth the pendulum swings, this is the art of negotiation.
As hopeful as we are that the ordinance will address everything that we have been asking for, the reality is that it’s not going to happen, at least not immediately. And even if we were able to get everything that we want all at once, would it really serve us? What better way to repeat the mistakes of Calaveras? That is exactly what they fear most, to open the floodgates entirely, knowing that once the genie is out of the bottle, you can’t put it back in, at least not without severe consequences like a complete ban. Patience is always a difficult virtue to cultivate, especially when so many lives and livelihoods are at stake. But moving slowly in the right direction is better than moving quickly in the wrong direction; this is how the tortoise beats the hare.
So what did we gain and what did we lose? First, remember none of this is set in stone, this is the starting point of the discussion. Here are the very basics:
- Personal Grows: By law, all jurisdictions must allow a household to grow 6 plants indoors for personal use. However, they can also choose to allow those plants to be outdoor. There was confusion among the BOS, but Prop 64 only allows for 6 plants total to be grown per household whether that’s indoor, outdoor, or mix of both. The county did allow for personal grows outdoor on Res-Ag (RA), Agricultural (AG), Ag-Exclusive (AE), Forest (FR), and Timber Production Zone (TPZ) on properties over 5 acres. Any properties under 5 acres or zoned as Residential (R1, R2, R3) are only allowed to grow 6 plants indoors.
- Non-Remunerative Grows: Championed by Forrest Hurd to protect the access of medicine to our most vulnerable populations, non-remunerative grows would allow caregivers to grow for up to 5 patients as per state law. Details for this permit still need to be developed but there seemed to be overwhelming support by the BOS. However, expect this to be as highly regulated as the commercial licenses and not a loophole for the black market, as this is their biggest concern.
- Commercial Grows:
- Right now anything with a “residential” designation, whether R1, R2, R3 and even Residential Agricultural (Estate or Rural), as well as TPZ was put on the chopping block. We understand why R1-R3 was chopped because normally they are not zoned for any type of commercial activity. Res-Ag was extremely disappointing since we know many people farm on Res-Ag. Timber Production was cut because it has very specific regulations that already apply to that type of zoning and it is difficult to reconcile those with cannabis regulations. Richard Anderson and Dan Miller strongly pushed for these restrictions as they would damage the quality of life for rural residences that wanted to live in the peace and quiet of the country.
- Outdoor commercial cultivation under 5 acres was also put on the chopping block. However, they did make a concession for commercial indoor cultivation from 3 acres and up. Outdoor commercial cultivation would be allowed on AG, AE, and FR properties beginning on properties of 5 acres or more. License types included in the discussion include Type 1C Cottage, Type 1 Specialty, Type 2 Small and Type 4 Nursery. While there was a short discussion about what size license goes on what size property, there were no specifics. Hank Weston recommended Speciality cottage (25 plants) on 5-10 acres, Type 1 Specialty on 10+ acres, and Type 2 Small on 20+.
- Losing Res-Ag and outdoor cultivation under 5 acres is very challenging for many of our farmers, however, from the county perspective this is the safest place to start in balancing the needs of those who don’t want to see cannabis grown commercially at all. It is a starting place, and we will continue to advocate in a way that shows that every farmer we pull out of the black market and into the legal market is a boon for our community.
- Multiple Premises on Single Parcels: The concept of being able to have different license holders grow on a single parcel as long as the total square footage of cultivation space did not exceed what was allowed for that parcel was briefly discussed and seemed to have support. For instance if there was 10,000 square feet of space allowed, this could be divided into two 5,000 sq/ft Type 1 licenses or four 2,500 sq/ft cottage licenses, or any combination that wouldn’t exceed 10,000 sq/ft. This is exciting in that it would allow some people who may not be able to grow on their parcel this year to lease out a compatible site elsewhere in the county.
- Setbacks: Setbacks were placed at 100 feet from the property line. Also, Supervisor Anderson requested to look into an additional 300 feet setback from neighboring living area. This seems daunting at first, however, there were at least four supervisors who did request that we look into some sort of variance process to account for different shapes and sizes of parcels and also neighbor relations. A variance process would be a huge win.
- Supply Chain Licenses: Cultivation licenses have been prioritized for this next ordinance. There was a lot of support from the BOS to issue licenses across the supply chain, however the main concern was expediency. If we want to get an ordinance by the start of growing season, we might have to wait for the other license types in a follow up ordinance at the end of the year or beginning next year. That said we feel that we can still make a strong argument to include the Processing and Distributor-transportation license in this ordinance. We will also push to get the rest of the supply chain in order as soon as possible, but we also feel the need to get an ordinance in place by spring.
- Transition Period/Program: Overall there seemed to be strong support for a transition period. However, it looks more like a transition program where to qualify you would have to apply for permits to come into appliance and maintain those permits in good standing, not different from the transition period that already exist for anyone wanting to bring their property up to compliance with building codes. Also, any immediate threats to health and safety must be taken care of asap. It does not mean a free-for-all grace period.
- Medical and Adult Use: There was a full consensus for allowing commercial medical licenses. However, from this meeting there didn’t seem to be an appetite to open it up for adult use commercial licenses immediately. We feel that there could be more education around this topic, especially since the state regulatory process for adult use and medical licenses are the same, hence if we were to start with medical it would be a relatively simple process to include adult use in the future.
- Local Authorization: There seemed to be a strong recognition around both the urgency of getting an ordinance in place by growing season, and allowing people to begin applying for their temporary licenses as long as they met all the necessary parameters.
- Special Meeting for Community Input: A highlight of the meeting was Supervisor Scofield’s request to set a special board of supervisor’s meeting March to get more information from the public. This could be an excellent opportunity to share rational arguments, provide real life examples, and work to create detailed solutions on how to approach the many issues of cannabis that the ordinance will need to address.
Although there are items that are deeply concerning for many in the cannabis community, realize the discussion is not over. Remember working with the government is an incremental process, it takes time and persistence. This process is not going to finish in the next couple of months, it will take years to just set the foundation much less build on top of it. We at the Alliance appreciate your continued support as we work on these efforts day in and day out.
The Board is Supervisors is open to more public input, including having a tentative March 6 meeting, before the new rules are in place. Please stay engaged and encourage others to do so. This is perhaps the biggest exercise in the democratic process our local cannabis community has ever participated in, going back to the overwhelming defeat of Measure W.
This is a perfect time for individuals to reach out, sit down, send letters and inform their particular supervisor of both issues and solutions that matter to them. HERE IS HOW. Lastly, this is an election year and if you’re not happy with your leadership, well… change it.