Trinity County supervisors split 3-2 in favor last week of restoring a county rule allowing for only one cannabis cultivation license per person, per legal parcel of land in the county.
The limitation against what is called license stacking was in the county’s original commercial cannabis cultivation ordinance, but the language was inadvertently removed with other amendments to the ordinance approved by the Board of Supervisors in February 2019.
Since then, numerous license holders have applied for additional permits allowing them to stack their licenses, and the Trinity County Planning Department staff recently asked for board clarification about the rules.
The board’s agenda item last week proposed restoring the original language to say there shall only be one application per legal parcel submitted.
Deputy Planning Director Lisa Lozier said it was clear the board did not intend to remove the language in the February amendments, but it was inadvertently dropped. She said there was no action taken by the board to do that “and this action today would add it back in to say only one application per legal parcel.”
Several speakers from the audience argued against the action, noting the issue of stacking was brought up over a year ago and the Planning Commission had discussed it over the course of several meetings.
Many noted that the county in practice has been allowing for multiple licenses under a single business entity or person and they asked how that can be rectified now by going back to the old language.
Referring to the current effort under way by the county to certify an Environmental Impact Report for its commercial cannabis program to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, Lisa Wright of Lewiston argued “It’s not the correct time to try and reinsert language. Many entities have already spread licenses across multiple parcels. Going back forces people in the industry to try and create workarounds, and the environmental impact from spreading licenses out is greater than concentrating them in certain areas.”
John Brower of Junction City argued that the Planning Commission spent three long meetings discussing and thinking through the issues of stacking licenses, and that should have been included in the EIR analysis, but wasn’t.
“Do it with a timeline to resolve this issue. Don’t insert the language that says ‘only one application per parcel countywide,’ ” he said.
County Counsel Margaret Long agreed the Planning Commission did discuss the issue of stacking and included recommendations to the Board of Supervisors, but the CEQA consultant advised it would not be appropriate until the draft EIR was completed so the issue was withdrawn. No action was taken by the board on stacking licenses and restoring the original language would restore what was considered in the CEQA process.
“But the county has allowed licenses for canopy of multiple parcels. People already have it, so how are they equal to those who haven’t yet?” asked board chair Bobbi Chadwick.
“It’s curious to me that we are addressing this topic at this time, but we can’t go back and look at any of those other things the Planning Commission looked at because of the CEQA process,” she added.
Sup. Keith Groves made the motion to add back the wording that only one application countywide may be submitted per legal parcel. It passed 3-2 with Sups. Chadwick and John Fenley opposed. A subsequent motion by Chadwick to leave the omitted language out of the ordinance failed 4-1.
Groves said “it is a mess. The majority involved want stacking, but there’s a way to do it and none of it has been decided yet.”
The action last week was to introduce the amendment. It must go back to the board at its next meeting for a final vote and would be enacted 30 days after that.