Jun 28, 2018
by Vesta Copestakes
Sonoma County is in the midst of refining our Cannabis Ordinance, addressing where it can be grown, & defining the permitting and taxing process, etc. to bring this Black Market business into compliance with all other legal businesses. When legality becomes national, banks will get involved and one of the biggest hurdles to conducting a legitimate business will be out of the way.
The plant is amazingly flexible in terms of its many uses. From recreational use, to fiber for ropes, paper, clothing, etc. and medical uses that span pain relief to cures. No wonder competitors want it to remain illegal. It’s easy to grow and useful in so many ways that it competes for market share in multiple categories.
We live where miles of hills are covered in vineyards, but no one has to worry about people stealing grapes because wine grapes require a complicated process to become an alcoholic beverage. Cannabis can be ripped off and with ease.
And because there are no banks that process cannabis income, it’s still a cash business. That means large sums of money are stashed on personal property as opposed to being deposited safely into a bank. Thus the issue of crime that has so many people concerned.
Neighbors next to cannabis grows are scared because of home invasions and killings. Cannabis growers are also scared for the very same reasons! Consider CBD plant growers who just want to make a product that relieves pain and nausea for cancer victims. Criminals are not thinking about the welfare of others. They see a crop and assume cash is on-hand as well.
Smell is another factor angry neighbors bring up. In a recent conversation with a concerned neighbor, I asked how our county deals with other agricultural smells such as: pig and dairy farms; steer, sheep, turkey, chicken and other meat ranches; egg farms; wineries that process grape skins that ferment nearby; ranches that spread manure that fills the air with the smell for weeks at a time. In the tiny town of Valley Ford and you can’t escape the smell od animals no matter what time of year you are there. Drive down Stony Point Road between Hwy 116 and Petaluma Blvd. and close your windows so you can breathe deeply. Smell/odor is an agricultural by-product.
When the planning commission reviewed our current Cannabis Land Use Ordinance, and the Board of Supervisors held a hearing, they decided more time was needed to take neighbor complaints into consideration. It looked like the current land use designations weren’t working well for neighbors in those areas defined as good for grows.
Diversified Agriculture and Rural Residential covers land where people have homes scattered among farmland. Setbacks from property lines for crops have not been defined for cannabis grows. Water use is just beginning to be considered and will have to go through the same rigorous scrutiny any agricultural crop has to go through.
Setbacks are one area where the ordinance can be changed to find a place where this crop and residential neighbors can function in harmony. Right now there are insufficient setbacks (100 feet) so growers can put a grow house, or till a field close to a fence line. That means the small parcels of open land in a residential neighborhood can be cultivated. If setbacks become sufficient to pull the crops away from the fence line, neighbors have said it would provide enough room to mitigate the smell of this crop when it is near harvest time. Grow structures (large greenhouses, etc.) have no setback requirement so many are right up against a fence line. This needs to change.
Indoor cultivation? Some people recommend bringing the crop indoors so it can be grown in industrially zoned parcels. In one way that looks like a solution because it’s easier to secure a building than it is an open field. Airflow systems can reduce smells considerably. But industrial buildings have been established in old neighborhoods, and indoor crops are very different from outdoor crops, so this solution might mitigate some concerns, but it does not solve the dilemma. Farmers don’t want to farm indoors, and people want to purchase outdoor-grown products, so there has to be a solution for outdoor grows.
Ultimately one of the suggestions at the Board of Supervisors hearing may be that each permit gets handled individually on a case-by-case basis. Naturally, that would slow the permitting process considerably so there still has to be a compromise that allows farmers to farm and residential homes to feel safe.
Permit Sonoma is having their next hearing on June 28th at 1 pm in the Board of Supervisors chambers at 575 Administration Dr., Santa Rosa. Then what they decide goes to the Board of Supervisors for another hearing on August 7th. This is a good time to make sure your concerns are known to both Permit Sonoma:sonomacounty.ca.gov/Permit-and-Resource-Management/ and the Board: sonomacounty.ca.gov/Board-of-Supervisors/Supervisorial-Districts/
Also attached to this article is the current ordinance so you can read it and mark up what you think should be changed.
Cannabis Ordinance Amendments Part 1: http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/Search-Results/?q=Cannabis%20Ordinance%20Amendments%20Part%201
This plant is too valuable to society to remain illegal and on the Black Market. People need it, people want access to it, and the tax benefits will help solve some of our budget shortfalls. This is a win/win if we can work out how to grow the crop in harmony with our land use policies.
If you consume Cannabis, grow cannabis, voted to legalize cannabis, or are a neighbor to a cannabis crop… now is the time to let your opinions be known.
Please support our sponsors:
Sonoma County Bike Shops and Groups. Find LOCALLY-OWNED Bicycle Shops for NEW, Used and Rental Bicycles as well as REPAIR. Look for a bike-riding group that suits your needs and style.
Please use the Gazette's Guide to find LOCALLY-OWNED Garden Businesses to support Sonoma County's environmental and economic health and vitality.