ASA: Time for a fundamental shift

By: ASA Nevada County

July 5, 2016 – ASA believes it is time for a fundamental shift in our approach to regulating medical cannabis production in Nevada County and apparently, the voters have agreed with a resounding majority.

By reframing the conversation from eradication/ban to compliance/permits, we can find reasonable regulations that will better protect the health and wellbeing of our community. Writing regulations that promote compliance will identify the bad actors, making it much easier to focus enforcement energies where they will do the most good.

There are two ways the county can generate income from cannabis cultivation. They can make impossible to follow regulations and levy punitive per plant/per day fines or they can embrace the new state laws that create a path for legitimate enterprises that are taxed and regulated like every other business in this County. I think the voters have indicated which path they prefer. The question now, are County officials prepared to make a fundamental shift in their thinking?

Sheriff Royal is rightfully concerned with an influx of out-of-area growers moving to our County to exploit our community. People with no ties to our neighborhoods have no concern about protecting our quality of life. For this reason, we strongly support a 2-year residency clause, but this will only have teeth if there is a permit tied to the residency requirement to identify those in compliance.

School bus stops have been a contentious issue between ASA and the County. We have no objection to enforcing active school bus stops, but there are over 2,207 stops on the Durham bus list (dating back to 1946) and only 110 or so are currently being used. It is unreasonable to include such a large number of inactive sites that have been used to eradicate otherwise compliant gardens. Using these standards, most properties would be disqualified and are indicative of measures taken in the past to make it impossible to comply with the ordinance, but did nothing to protect the public.

We support defining school bus stops so that only ACTIVE school bus stops are included in the sensitive use setbacks. (The state has eliminated this requirement altogether and now schools are the only mandatory setback.)

Before Ordinance #2349, guidelines were issued by our District Attorney that allowed everyone to grow up to 6 plants for personal use and collectives were allowed to grow for up to 6 patients. To appease residents in Alta Sierra, Lake of the Pines, and Lake Wildwood who voted Yes on W, ASA has agreed to eliminate or severely restrict outdoor cultivation in R-1 and R-2 zones and restrict all cultivation in R-3, TPZ, and mobile home parks. If we are to restrict roughly half of the properties in Nevada County from outdoor cultivation, accommodations must be made so that people on RA, AG, AE, and FR zones have the ability to grow for those patients who cannot grow their own medicine-just like they produce food for city dwellers.

Expanding the plant count from 36 to 50 on parcels that are 20 acres or larger is hardly an unreasonable compromise. If anything, it underserves the needs of our community. Even if a calculation of 100 sq feet per plant is used, 50 plants would occupy less than 1% of the approximately 870,000 square feet of available landspace on a twenty acre property. It’s not necessarily the number of plants that is a problem, it’s whether a nuisance is being created by following unsound practices.

Permitting is the only answer to solving the problems we have experienced. Every business from a manicurist to a food vendor at a local farmer’s market have regulations they must follow to protect the public health or they are not allowed to operate. Permits will require cannabis cultivators to follow strict environmental and public safety guidelines that can be verified by licensing authorities and revoked for non-compliance.

ASA believes these are very reasonable steps to take to bridge the gap between the ban and the new state laws that regulate and tax cannabis cultivation and auxiliary businesses. We are still soliciting opinions about cannabis cultivation in Nevada County from the community, so if you want YOUR voice to be heard, please take the survey at: www.surveymonkey.com/r/NevadaCountyASA