In last week’s edition of the Trinity Journal, the front-page headline read “County, TAA seek cannabis compromise.” The article that ensues explains TAA’s view of the proposed amendment to the settlement agreement with the county involving CEQA and the cannabis program.
An amendment that will, however, inevitably extinguish the cannabis program as we know it unless change can be enacted in the department.
At the time of the county’s entering of the settlement agreement with TAA in 2019, the county was in the process of developing their local CEQA document, the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), that would lay out the mandated requirements of environmental review for cultivators. Fast forward to today, where the program now has a FEIR that has been passed and certified by the Board of Supervisors. We now have a mechanism to complete proper environmental review for all commercial cannabis licensees.
How does this amendment then effect the cannabis program when there’s a certified FEIR? I.e. a solution to TAA’s complaints? Item three of the amendment states, “The County shall not approve or issue ‘provisional’ CCLs in any form.” Thus the county would not be able to issue interim licenses without CEQA review.
With an all-time shortage of staff in the cannabis program, we must call for a written procedure on CEQA review that will enable issuance of licenses under proper CEQA and local statutes. An example would be a Mitigation Implementation Timetable, an addendum to the county’s certified FEIR that outlines how and when all mitigation measures applicable to the specific project will be met.
This is the appropriate direction to go in in order to create and facilitate a functioning cannabis program.
With a plan for review in place, the issue of staff must then be addressed. Expanding current, or creating new, contracts with CEQA consultants would be a solution for a speedy review of these mitigation timetables. Speedy review ensures licensees can continue operating their businesses, TAA can rest easy knowing proper environmental review is occurring, and the 250-plus small businesses from the cannabis program can contribute to the newly elected local tax to bring much-needed money back to our community.