Though no action or hearing on local medical marijuana rules was scheduled during last week’s Trinity County Planning Commission meeting in Weaverville, marijuana advocates urged the county to act quickly as it develops a land use ordinance to address commercial cultivation under California’s newly adopted medical marijuana regulations.
Several argued the state rules and government oversight going into effect by 2018 will be costly and strict enough that the county doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. They called for Trinity County planners to forward a basic, simple permit process to the Board of Supervisors for approval by the state deadline in March.
“The state has done due diligence to protect the watersheds, the animals and the land with enough costly regulations to compliant farmers,” said Duncan McIntosh of Junction City. “It is not in the county’s best interest to regulate farmers further. Use a simple, ministerial county permit to let people go to the state for licensing and start jumping through those hoops.”
Others noted urgency as they seek compliance in time for planting next spring, adding many will not be able to meet the state licensing requirements, but those who can “deserve a chance to come out of the shadows and do it right.” Some spoke of the county’s need to start generating revenue as soon as possible to pay for local permitting and enforcement efforts.
Updating the Planning Commission on direction given by the Board of Supervisors to get started on the land use recommendations, Senior Planner Carson Anderson said the consensus is to produce an urgency ordinance and preliminary county permit process by the March deadline, understanding that it will all be subject to refinement over time. He said the goal is to adopt a final ordinance and permit process by the end of next year in time for the 2017 grow season.
Immediate priorities are to determine which zoning classifications will allow for commercial cultivation of medical marijuana; size of grows allowed; and specifics about compatible surrounding land uses defining things like distance separations, property setbacks, forms of enclosure and odor control to limit potential impacts on neighboring parcels.
Planning commissioners were provided copies of Humboldt County’s medical marijuana ordinance and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s discharge permitting regime for review prior to their next meeting Dec. 10. Medical marijuana ordinances from four other neighboring counties will also be reviewed.
The commission generally meets once a month, but an aggressive schedule involving additional meetings through January and February is proposed in order to meet the March deadline. Unless the deadline is amended, jurisdictions without local land use rules in place by then will lose their ability to participate in the state licensing process.
Though attending for a different item last week, Eric Ammon of Salyer argued that Trinity County is heading “down the wrong path. I am against the pot industry and all the damage it’s done to our young children and wildlife, the chemical runoff into our rivers, wells with no permits, stolen water, the crime and theft. It’s a bad path. We already made the mistake with tobacco that’s killed lots of people. I encourage you to understand how it will be regulated because they haven’t regulated themselves.”
Another argued that Trinity County once had a viable economy until the timber industry “was taken away and most of the families left. Some even said they could always grow dope, but it is not respectable. Now our state is jamming this down our throat even though it is still illegal federally.”
A grower responded the governor signed the legislation “and the ink is on the line. Some people worked a long time and risked a lot to build this industry. We’re here. There was a time when people just cut the timber with no rules, so the rules came about. Now we’re here, and it’s time to do something about it.”