Nevada County’s proposed interim outdoor growing ordinance begins to take shape

NEVADA CITY, Calif. June 27, 2016 – Stakeholders and county officials met for the second time to discuss an interim ordinance replacing the current outdoor growing ban on marijuana. Measure W, the county’s attempt to have the ban ratified by voters, failed – supervisors now are working with patient advocates and growers to craft a simple temporary ordinance to be presented at the July 26th meeting.

If anyone had told Patricia Smith a few years ago she would spend part of her birthday discussing a new outdoor growing ordinance with county officials, chances are she wouldn’t have thought it possible. But that’s exactly what happened today.

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County Counsel Alison Barratt-Green gave a short summary on what the interim ordinance needs to accomplish: It needs to be clear and concise, it should not trigger CEQA and it has to garner a 4/5th vote of the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Nate Beason added that voters had rejected the outdoor growing ban but wanted nuisance regulations.

Both Jonathan Collier, representing the CA Growers Association and Mark Schaefer, speaking for the No on W Committee stated they want to provide solutions for the community. Collier said that a shift from the previous “eradication mindset” to a regulatory framework is necessary to allow for growers to come into compliance. He expressed the desire of his members to become licensed and registered in order to have the ability to engage in long-term development.

The county prepared a preliminary proposal after the last meeting. It included many of the suggestions and concessions offered by the stakeholders, namely keeping cultivation in the more rural areas and no cultivation on R1, R2 or R3-zoned properties. Re-instituting a plant count vs the previous square footage limitations was also included in the county’s proposal.

Zoning and parcel sizes will matter

The interim ordinance will be based on zoning and parcel size will determine the number of plants allowed, that much has emerged from today’s discussion.

There was a frank back and forth discussing the numbers of plants and some of the restrictions the county wants to impose. Since none of the numbers discussed today are firm, we see little reason to include the initial proposal. These discussions are a negotiation and both parties represent their positions, naturally.

Some of the regulations in the previous outdoor cultivation will not be reinstated. Terracing will no longer be prohibited. Just like any other grading project, if a grower disturbs more than 75 yards of soil, they will be able to take out a grading permit – with the associated fees and requirements. Setbacks from schools, bus stops and other public places will be 600 ft.

The grows will have to be shielded from view, setbacks from neighboring parcels will be required.

Patient advocates Patricia Smith and Forrest Hurd voiced the concerns of patients and explained the difference between genetically modified or bred plants with high THC content and the medicinal cannabis strains. The need to grow a variety of these CBD strains is imperative to distill the various oils, salves and tinctures.

The ability for collectives to grow was discussed and will be incorporated in the draft to be discussed at the next meeting.

Fines, penalties and prosecutorial discretion

The current abatement process needs expediting in the county’s view. The stakeholders want to take a slower approach to heavy-handed enforcement and both sides discussed at length what should be part of the normal process – license and fees -and what type of fines will be handed out during the penalty phase of an abatement process.

Collier reiterated the need for a move from eradication at all cost to a solution for the community, “The Free for All and the Wild West is coming to an end. Growers need to be able to make the transition from gardeners to farmers. Can we create a pathway for that?”

The process for the permanent ordinance was briefly mentioned, with the stakeholders offering to send their plan for the stakeholder process to the county. The next meeting will take place on July 12, with the draft ordinance available for public viewing on July 21st.

The takeaway of the meeting

At the first meeting, the patients and growers offered some of their thoughts – licensing, zoning and parcel-based plant counts, residential requirements. This time, the county countered with their proposal and both parties discussed it at length. The exchange was civil, courteous and frank – all good elements to come to an agreement taking into consideration the needs of patients, growers and the community.