June 15, 2016 – Yesterday Jonathan Collier spoke at the Board of Supervisors meeting during the public comment period. The statement below was read on behalf of the California Growers Association.
Enacting the will of the people: Regulating cannabis cultivation in Nevada County
It is with utmost respect that we write to you today to share our principles and priorities. We are writing on behalf of more than 50 members and more than 1700 supporters in Nevada County. Our focus is on a well-regulated, small farm friendly cannabis future for our community. As stakeholders we commit to working in good faith with all other stakeholders to advance public policy solutions.
While we were elated at the outcome of the recent election, we have known since January that the work would continue long after the election. We have worked long and hard to be here today and look forward to being a part of the process.
We know that a comprehensive land use ordinance will take many months to develop and many years to implement. We are confident that such a policy is not only the way of solving the very real challenges our communities face, but it is also the will of nearly 60 percent of the voters of Nevada County.
Today we ask you to commit to taking immediate steps to remove the outdoor ban as quickly as possible.
Over the last 2 years our organization has grown steadily, both here in Nevada County and in communities throughout California. We played an instrumental role in developing and negotiating the breakthrough legislation passed last year. Our members have worked with your colleagues and stakeholders to develop local land use and tax measures in several cities and counties throughout the state. We are excited for the opportunity to partner with you and other stakeholders to solve problems here in Nevada County.
A primary role we play is to provide information. Very little is known about the existing cannabis business community. We know that good public policy is built on good information. Accordingly, we facilitate and promote the exchange of information between growers and government and between all stakeholders. We will reiterate our offer to you and to all stakeholders: we are available to answer questions or provide input at any time.
Diana Gamzon, Nevada County Coordinator
Jonathan Collier, Board of Directors, Nevada County Chair
Hezekiah D Allen, Executive Director
Cal Growers: Nevada County Principles
Public participation and transparency
In our role as educators it is important that we share information with our members as well as the greater public because of this we support public participation and transparency. We support the presence of the media, however we defer to the decision of the supervisors. Also, we will communicate clearly and specifically about what we are advocating for. All such comments should be part of the public record.
Cannabis is agriculture. We are farmers.
It is time to transition from a criminal to a civil approach to regulating cannabis cultivation. Policies should encourage compliance and create a pathway to permitting, licensing and regulation, while also protecting natural resources and addressing community concerns.
Enforcement priorities should be public and focused on crimes
We ask that local law enforcement be focused on criminal activity, including public land grows, trespass grows, and violent crimes. Cultivators that can illustrate efforts to be compliant with regulations outlined by the State Water Board and the Board of Equalization requirements should be the lowest enforcement priority.
1) Remove the outdoor ban immediately.
We have considered three ways this could be achieved:
a) Restore Ordinance 2349 as an urgency placeholder ordinance
b) Develop and pass an urgency placeholder ordinance modifying Ordinance 2349
c) Develop and pass an urgency placeholder ordinance establishing a new policy based on MMRSA guidelines
We recommend option “A” or “B.” Option B is preferred because it could require compliance with existing and new state regulatory programs, notably it could require operators to have a sellers permit from the Board of Equalization and a wastewater discharge waiver from the Central Valley Water Board. Additionally Option B would allow the county increased consistency with state law by adopting guidelines consistent with the state licensing framework.
Although we would like to see an ordinance pass that encourages compliance and aligns with the parameters set forth with MMRSA, we are concerned that development of a new ordinance will take too long to provide relief for growers seeking regulatory certainty this growing season.
We are also concerned that significant changes to policy may trigger a CEQA review that will stall the implementation of an ordinance. As has been proven in other counties, significant changes to policy may also leave the county vulnerable to CEQA litigation.
In response to the potential of an influx of new growers, Nevada County could consider policies protecting against new development such as a moratorium or residency requirements.
2) Short term: Prepare for a robust stakeholder process
Over the next several months we ask the county to engage in a robust stakeholder process including law enforcement and elected officials, patients and growers, schools, hospitals, faith-based communities, neighborhood associations, environmental groups, non-profit organizations, businesses and whoever else may have a concern.
Developing the capacity to contact and communicate with stakeholders directly will ensure transparency and can work to restore public trust. Surveys and questionnaires can help ensure the process is inclusive and that policy decisions are accurately representing public opinion.
We recommend that the county develop a robust mailing list of patients, concerned citizens and the general public. We recommend that the Clerk of the Board be responsible for maintaining and administering this mailing list.
We further recommend that Agricultural Commissioner be required to form a voluntary registry to identify interested growers and business owners. This registry may include: Name; Mailing Address; Intended license type (s); Email address. The registration fee should be nominal but should be enough to cover the cost of developing and maintaining both the mailing list and the registry.
This action should be taken as soon as possible.
3) Long term: Develop and pass a comprehensive land use ordinance
Stakeholders and the county should familiarize themselves with state law and the licenses types that have been established. After a common understanding has been established stakeholders can work together to determine what license types shall/may be permitted on what parcels. We strongly support enactment of a local ordinance no later than March 1, 2017.
4) Long term: Consider a local tax measure
After a comprehensive land use ordinance has been developed and passed we recommend that the county consider a local tax measure. This should be a low priority until all higher priority actions have been taken.