UKIAH, 5/24/15 — At the regularly scheduled Mendocino County Board of Supervisors meeting, officials from the Department of Agriculture and Planning and Building Services updated the board on the recently adopted Mendocino County Medical Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance. A building permit amnesty deadline has been extended, while a water rights deadline looms.
Arif Kever, the assistant commissioner for the Department of Agriculture, told the board that as of the end of the day on May 15, his department has accepted 152 applications from cultivators. Not one of them has been for indoor cultivation, though a little less than half are for mixed-light growing. He also reported that his department is prepared to start standardized trainings for third-party inspectors. The department recently hired four new agricultural inspectors and is waiting on transcripts for two more potential inspectors, who must possess a science degree. The next step for growers whose permits have been accepted is to schedule an inspection from the Ag Department. This is the beginning of a process involving many state and county agencies with various requirements regarding land use and water rights. Kever said in a brief interview on Wednesday that he was concerned about fast-approaching deadlines to turn in documentation about water rights with the state. July 1 is the deadline to file most water rights paperwork with the State Water Resources Control Board water rights division.
Chief Planner Mary Lynn Hunt, of Planning and Building Services, told the board that her department has been especially busy since April 4, when the ordinance was adopted. She reported that her staff has had lots of conversations with cultivators about how to fill out the application, but has not yet issued any use permits or administrative use permits. The deadline to join the permit amnesty program has been extended to the end of the year, which means that only ordinary permit fees apply. Usually, people who request building permits after the fact are required to pay double the fees.
First District Supervisor Carre Brown asked how staff is addressing the needs of cultivators who are in the sunset zone, or areas where they will have to stop cultivating in 2020. “We haven’t yet,” said Hunt. “This is very early in the process.”
Kever replied that “We are informing all the applicants…they better make the necessary arrangements.”
In a budget workshop on Monday, the board heard that the Executive Office has calculated a minimum amount of cannabis tax the county can expect to collect. The projection of $2.1 million is based on a minimum of 600 taxpaying permittees.
On Tuesday, Kever told the board that applicants often bring other cultivators along with them when they come to the Ag Department for their initial application interviews, possibly in order to educate themselves about the process before embarking on it themselves.
The board agreed to take a cautious approach in allocating the cannabis tax during its budget hearings in June.
Sarah Reith [email protected]