Matthew Jefferson

Matthew Jefferson, with his dog Mogwai, set up camp outside the Cannabis Department for just over two days, waiting until his cannabis cultivation license was sent in for public noticing and approval.

Seven commercial cannabis cultivation licenses were approved today.

The license approvals — dated Wednesday, May 18 — marks the first commercial cannabis cultivation licenses issued since a Sept. 13 court order last year that the county discontinue issuing provisional licenses and require CEQA compliance before the issuance of any further licenses.

On April 5, Cannabis Division Director Sean Connell laid out plans to ramp-up onsite inspections (The Trinity Journal, “Cannabis site visits ramp up,” April 13) for license applicants who had turned in environmental review paperwork. As far back as March 1, Sup. Keith Groves referenced up to six licenses having completed the technical review process and being ready for noticing.

Since then, the number has risen to nine in technical review, but little further progress had been noticed from the county until a May 3 Board of Supervisors meeting. There, Connell said that public notices would be going out in the next two weeks for the first batch of fully CEQA compliant county-issued commercial cannabis cultivation licenses, after a flurry of public comment during a discussion on opt-out zones (The Trinity Journal, “Opt-outs quickly finalized,” May 11).

After being told that the licenses were ready for public notice the week before, and then having those notices pulled, one local farmer decided to camp out until he heard they would be noticed again.

Cannabis camp-out

Matthew Jefferson set up camp outside the Cannabis Division building at 530 Main St. in Weaverville on Wednesday, May 11, for a sit-in style protest with his dog Mogwai, engaging with any passersby interested to know what he was doing.

“I just want to be able to get back to work,” Jefferson told anyone who asked.

Jefferson has a state-issued commercial cannabis cultivation license, and is one of only two cannabis farmers who can legally operate within the Coffee Creek Volunteer Fire District opt-out zone. His license was of the seven noticed today.

Jefferson was told mid-April that his application was waiting with the nine others that had passed technical review and were awaiting public notice — a full eight months of being unable to grow cannabis, which he says helps pay the bills to keep the rest of his small farm operations afloat, including vegetables and vegetable start-ups which he sells locally.

As one of the first through public review, Jefferson was told his license would be issued publicly noticed on May 11. However, after initially placing public notices for the licenses in The Trinity Journal on Friday, May 6, Director Connell returned on Monday, May 9, to pull the notices.

Dismayed after months of waiting to get his CEQA compliance and then weeks more waiting for the public notice of his license, Jefferson was feeling fed-up.

“It seems like all of a sudden things stopped,” Jefferson said. He was told again that the noticngs would be coming soon, but having heard the same things many times before, he was having a hard time swallowing it.

“I’m having a hard time believing it,” Jefferson said. “When all I hear is ‘we’re trying’ for weeks and weeks … I’m starting to feel a little led on.”

Licenses approved

County Administrative Officer Richard Kuhns spoke on the cannabis cultivation licenses that were pulled for noticing at a May 12 Cannabis Ad Hoc Committee meeting. The licenses were pulled from public noticing in last week’s paper, he said, because of legal concerns raised by the county-hired consulting groups that are processing the licenses and how the county had planned to do the noticing.

According to Kuhns, the consultants said that the county’s noticing process was not in line with the terms of the settlement agreement made between the county and Trinity Action Association that was upheld in court in September (The Trinity Journal, “Judge rules in favor of TAA,” Sept. 22).

“If the consultants were correct in their concern,” Kuhns said, “and we noticed and were challenged, it could shut the program down for eight to nine months, and we just were not willing to put the county or the program in that type of liability.”

Kuhns said the county's attorneys eventually determined consultants' concerns were unwarranted and that the pulled cannabis licenses would be re-noticed, and on Friday, May 13, license notices were once again sent into The Journal from the Cannabis Department.

Outside the Cannabis Department, Jefferson was informed of the news and started packing up camp.

“They noticed the permits today so I’m heading home,” Jefferson said Friday morning.

Now approved, the licenses have a 10-day period to be appealed.

The notices can be seen on page 22 of today's Trinity Journal.

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