Editor’s note: Here is the full video of the Mendo Supervisors’ cannabis ad hoc committee town hall meeting — the sound improves over the course of the meeting and we are working on upgrading our equipment.
MENDOCINO Co., 1/22/20 — About 90 people filled the chairs at Laytonville’s Harwood Hall Wednesday night, at a town hall meeting hosted by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors’ Ad hoc Committee on Cannabis intended to all the public a chance to provide feedback and propose changes to the county’s cannabis regulations. The committee consists of District 3 Supervisor John Hashak, along with Planning & Building’s Brent Shultz, and the newly hired cannabis program manager, Megan Dukett.
The County’s cannabis cultivation ordinance is scheduled to re-open the permitting process to new cultivators in July, but potentially thousands of the county’s “legacy cultivators” have yet to apply for licenses, and hundreds of others remain in compliance limbo without a finalized local or state level permit.
Many changes have been proposed to the current ordinance, and some, including license transferability, have been approved, but supervisors are still considering other changes — including expanding the legal area in which one can cultivate, and streamlining aspects of the process to encourage more farmers to apply. The town hall meeting covered issues with regulating cannabis cultivation including helping streamline requirements to encourage “old-timers,” also called “legacy cultivators,” to apply for licenses, and re-opening aspects of the application process to allow those grows to become legal.
The county’s current ordinance allows for new cultivators to apply for licenses beginning July, 2020, and also allows for an expansion in grow size — although exactly how much, or whether Mendocino’s cannabis farmers will be allowed to expand as much as other counties are allowing is a yet to be determined. At the meeting, Hashack, along with Shultz, covered certain agenda topics and then took questions and comments from the audience, saying that they anticipated an update on proposed changes to occur at the February 25 Board of Supervisors meeting. Shultz also introduced Dukett, a former county employee who will be the county’s third cannabis cultivation program manager in as many years.
The agenda covered streamlining proposals such as revising the ordinance to allow the county, not California Fish & Wildlife (CDFW), to conduct inspections and review for ministerial permits; eliminate redundant background checks required by the state permit process; eliminate annual inspections except as needed; change the current requirement for LSAA permit approval to proof of an application; re-opening applications for legacy cultivators; and zoning and expansion for the upcoming “Phase Three” permit application process. Shultz noted that the county approved a regular cost-of-living increase for staff, which will result in fee increases in the future to cover program costs, although this is not limited to cannabis permits.
The crowd included many long-time growers, many of who are struggling to stay in compliance, stay in business, find legal local product, or get a permit approved. Also present were hopeful cultivators who were waiting for the permitting process to re-open, and consultants and farmers, as well as advocates seeking specific changes to ease the burden of current local regulations.
Most were eager to see the proposed changes to reduce duplicative permitting requirements implemented, and most raised their hands in favor of expanding cultivation areas, including on areas zoned range land or in the “overlay” zones. Others spoke in favor of protecting micro-businesses and cottage licensees, and old-time homesteaders “with a few dozen plants,” and for developing support for co-operatives.
Supervisors and county staff are still researching potential regulatory changes, so there’s still time to email your supervisors or submit public comment before anything is approved.