Editor’s note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed in this letter are those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect those of The Mendocino Voice. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor feel free to write to [email protected].
Folks have mentioned to me that they’ve noticed I’ve been quiet on the cannabis front for the last few months. We saw a huge uptick in vegetable sales this spring, and the process of expanding our production to match has taken every bit of energy we possess. This is the first time since 2014 that I’ve been on my farm full time and that feels glorious.
What doesn’t feel so glorious is the confusion and conundrums surrounding cannabis right now. The snafu of CDFW (California Department of Fish and Wildlife) delays on sensitive species and habitat reviews (SSHR), CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), and land-use regulations has created a very real problem for the future of regulated cultivation in Mendocino County. I would like to offer some thoughts in regards to the various commentaries that have been floating around of late.
The County has worked with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to draft a checklist called “Appendix G” that would suffice for CEQA for some cultivators. This should be utilized wherever possible. For those businesses that are in process but cannot utilize Appendix G because of specific conditions on their parcels, the County should develop a streamlined land-use permit. For future new businesses, the county should continue its effort to develop a full land-use permit process.
I want to be clear that I am not taking a position around the question of expansion of cultivation size. I will say, however, that my farm would not pursue a permit above 10,000 square feet regardless of whether it were available.
It is important to point out the remaining stigma that exists around cannabis cultivation as indicated in recent opinions pieces in local publications. Cannabis is regulated in Mendocino County to not exceed a quarter acre (10,00 sq ft.) of flowering canopy. For all the talk of “big growers”, a quare acre of production does not make a large farm in the eyes of agriculturalists.
And for all the hue and cry about big growers, the permitting system is the most rigorous of anything that exists in agriculture. California issues licenses to cultivators based on a great many criteria including water usage, permitting from various state agencies and permission from the local jurisdiction in which the farm is located. There is a dual licensing system that requires cultivators to apply for both state and local licensure.
There are large-scale unregulated operations that can have significant negative effects on the environment and the community. We’ve seen these types of operations face enforcement actions in Covelo this summer. Egregious environmental crimes are never acceptable.
The most important issue in local cannabis at this time is not expansion, it is the question of whether cultivators will be able to transition to State Annual licenses when the State Provisional licenses expire at the end of next year. Aside from their local permit application, most cultivators with state licenses in Mendocino County are operating under a Provisional license, which means that in the eyes of the California Department of Food and Agriculture we have not met our obligations under CEQA. We must do so in order to receive full Annual Licenses that are renewed each year for as long as we choose to continue in business. The deadline to get an Annual State License is January 2022. We cannot get Annual State Licenses without having the SSHR and other site-specific CEQA review.
I believe that county policymakers recognize that the priority must be to work with staff to help craft a way to completion of state annual licenses for the cohort of cultivators who are already in process. Those who wish to expand and those who wish to begin new cultivation must take a backseat to maintaining the current licensees. The businesses that are in process already are creating jobs and contributing significant tax revenue to the county at a time when budgets are in the red because of the pandemic.
My personal standpoint is that a streamlined land-use process that satisfies CEQA — whether through the Appendix G process between the County and CDFA (see below) or through issuance of a land-use permit — would be ideal. There is a problem of timeline, in which either of these options could take longer than the “provisionals” are in effect, forcing some businesses to close. The other problem is that CDFA has based the Appendix G on our current ordinance. Significant changes to the current ordinance have the potential to jeopardize the Appendix G process, although there is not clarity as of yet as to how effective this process might be. Until these problems are solved, we won’t be able to stay in business unless the state extends the existing provisional licenses, which at this point, they say they won’t do.
In short, the regulatory morass is real and will require some time to sort out. The rising note of concern from community members about cannabis is real, but should also be tempered by the reality that ending Prohibition is not easy and that this is perhaps the most complicated policy issue that the county will grapple with in this decade. More information on these issues can be found in the memos submitted by the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance (linked here). In the interest of full transparency, I serve on the policy committee of MCA, though my opinions in this letter are solely my own.
I’m frightened by the prospect of having to shutter my cannabis business. I’m concerned about the future of regulated cannabis in the state of California. I’m saddened by the public discourse that I see. I hope for better from all of us.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
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Hello. I just wanted everyone to know that our potter Valley farm was licensed, compliant, we are vetted and grandfathered in with the county and state of California.
2016 was the year of prop 64. We had been at our farm since 2007.
In 2017 during the pg&e fires, we got evacuated, while corrupt MCSD came and robbed and illegally raided us.
A year to the day, the corrupt sheriff’s came to rob us, we called for help, they turned on us, lied to us saying, on a Sunday, they called the CDFA and said our licenses were not current.
They then proceeded to destroy everything, again!
We have since surrendered our hard earned licenses and walked away from the farm.
Going legal is a big fat joke, and now this is a full on civil rights battle!
We are right now, suing the MCSD. Have a nice day.
Skunkworx pharms llc defunct
Hi Sonny, we’d like to talk with you more about this, could you get in touch at [email protected]? Thanks.
For those that did not read the 62 pages of Prop 64 beforehand- it read as clear effort to narrow the state down to 5 major producers, give or- well, mostly take. Better legislation is in order. Making sense of this mess.. like dragging your mind thru a mine field. You ever see a politician give money back?!?! That there’s a start I suppose. Better legislation needs drawn, voted on, and enacted. My 2k sq ft farm can’t even enter this “market”. All I ever grew was enough for my friends and I… Bad Capitalist! All respect to your efforts. TYFYS-
This is the Drug War 2.0: Where only the rich may enjoy their intoxicants.
We can do better.
CHHA 2020 was/is the answer. No one wants to listen but they love to complain about 64. 64 needs to be thrown in the trash and replaced with the long thought out and edited Jack Herer Act. Mendocino growers have so disappointed me with their willingness to accept over regulated 64 and work with it rather than get rid of it. This is politics. The left loves regs and 64, conservatives for a change are much more friendly to the bud and breakfast tourist industry marijuana would bring to this area. Floating around is 64 is just a dead end from a business prospective. Weed’s not supposed to be about business nor making more money than than effort expended, it’s for healing. As long as people keep staring at the money the farther from the Universe they move into their own ego.
Casey O’Neill spells out the challenges Mendocino County growers face in trying to qualify for county and state cannabis-growing permits and licenses. Many small farmers have given up hope of becoming legal. It’s easy to understand their frustration. After more than three years, the county has issued only 270 permits out of 1,429 permit applications received. More than 800 applications are waiting for approval from the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture or the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. Forty-two percent of Mendocino County applications from 2017 are still under review by the county. Although the state has issued more than 800 provisional licenses to local cultivators here, those licenses will expire in December 2021 and cannot be renewed. Without an annual state license, permitted farms will be illegal. The result of this insanity is that outlaw grows are escalating across the county– on steep hillsides and in plain sight–with hoop houses, generators, lights and more. Small growers who dreamed of having a legal business have gone underground again or quit. Casey is a saint for his continued efforts to work with local and state officials as they design ever more labyrinthian solutions. Did it have to be so complicated??