MENDOCINO Co., 2/3/21 — Mendocino County’s cannabis cultivation permit program has been the source of public debate, revisions, and overall regulatory confusion for several years, and as the county approaches the re-opening of much larger permit applications as part of “Phase 3,” there are still many hundreds of cultivators who applied in the first rounds of permits who still have no clear path to achieving an annual state permit due to confusion over how to meet certain statewide environmental regulations.
Mendocino County’s Cannabis Ad Hoc Committee, consisting of Supervisors John Haschak and Ted Williams, are holding a virtual town hall meeting on at 4 p.m. on February 10, including “an update on their current discussions with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) regarding the State’s requirement for site-specific California Environment Quality Act (CEQA) review in order for applicants to be eligible for a State Annual Cannabis Cultivation License,” according to the county’s announcement. The committee previously held a meeting in December on the same issue, which can be viewed at the bottom of the article.
County officials also released a application process today for county-approved consultants to be approved by Mendocino County to help cannabis cultivators to navigate the CEQA process, which can be found here on the county’s website.
Last week, a majority of supervisors, except John Haschak, voted to initially approve the re-opening of permits in Phase 3, which would allow up owners of qualified parcels to seek permits to cultivate on up to 10% of their properties. However, almost all of the current “Phase 1” cultivators, many of whom first applied for the program in 2016 for permits for much smaller grow sites, remain stuck in compliance at various stages of the permitting process, as they await guidance on how to adequate fulfill California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) regulations within the county’s permitting framework.
The first phase of the county’s cannabis ordinance attempted to cover permit applicants under a negative mitigated declaration, in part due to a local requirement that meant only cultivators with “proof of prior cultivation” were eligible to apply. The initial phases of permit applications brought in over 1,000 applicants, who were limited to much smaller cultivation permits than those that will be opened this year under Phase 3. However, due to lack of clarity around whether CEQA requirements must be fulfilled and how, the majority of these cultivators have not been given full state permitting approval, which is required for commercial operation beginning in 2022, despite hundreds having paid fees, taxes, and received various types of provisional approval from county officials.
Local officials have presented a variety of potential pathways for these cultivators, including re-applying under Phase 3, independently undertaking CEQQ approval, a workaround involving a modified checklist of environmental compliance, and a possibly legislative fix on the state level. However, so far county supervisors have not been able to provide clear answers as to whether these methods will allow local cultivators to receive annual state permits, whether adequate staff is available to process permit applications on a local or state level, and how long achieving approval might take. An update will be included in the upcoming meeting, according to the county press release.
Mendocino County also received $2.2 million from the state of California towards a cannabis equity grant program in 2020, which is supposed to provide financial assistance to qualifying legacy and low-income cultivators who need help with the permitting process, although additional details on this program have not yet been released.
Here’s the details of the upcoming town hall:
Cannabis Ad Hoc to Host Cannabis Cultivation Virtual Town Hall
Post Date: 02/02/2021
On Wednesday, February 10th at 4:00 pm, the Board of Supervisors Cannabis Cultivation Ad Hoc Committee consisting of Supervisors John Haschak and Ted Williams will host a virtual Cannabis Cultivation Town Hall Meeting. The Supervisors will give an update on their current discussions with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) regarding the State’s requirement for site-specific California Environment Quality Act (CEQA) review in order for applicants to be eligible for a State Annual Cannabis Cultivation License.
The Supervisors and County staff will also give information regarding CEQA pathway options for Mendocino County Phase 1 or Phase 2 cultivators including the third party consultant framework that was directed by the Board of Supervisors on January 5, 2021.
Virtual Town Hall Details:
What: Cannabis Cultivation Virtual Town Hall
When: Wednesday, February 10, 2021 at 4:00 pm
Who: Mendocino County Board of Supervisors John Haschak and Ted Williams
Planning and Building Services Staff
How to attend:
To join via Zoom, click the link: https://mendocinocounty.zoom.us/j/88027314543
To join via phone, dial: +1 669 900 9128 and enter the webinar ID: 880 2731 4543
The webinar will also be streaming live on the County’s YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/mendocinocountyvideo) and the County’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/mendocinocounty/).
For more information, please contact Mendocino County Planning and Building Services Cannabis Program at (707) 234-6680.
December 16, 2020 Cannabis Ad Hoc Virtual Town Hall meeting:
Watch Mendocino Board of Supes’ cannabis ad hoc committee town hall (video)