County ag dept. hosts application workshops for cultivators

Workshops will be help around the county to help cultivators apply for permits.


MENDOCINO Co., 3/16/17 — Local cannabis cultivators have been wondering how to ensure they’re in compliance with county regulations this season as they await the county’s new cultivation ordinance. Last week, the Mendocino County Department of Agriculture announced that they will be holding a series of workshops around the county to assist growers with these new cultivation permit applications.

If the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors approves the ordinance, the Ag Dept. will be in charge of processing and approving cannabis cultivation permits for hundreds and maybe thousands of growers in the county, and assessing whether they are compliant. The agency is currently working on a draft for a new cultivation permit application in order to be prepared if new the ordinance is approved soon. The supervisors expect to finalize the new regulations in early April, and will discuss the draft rules at the March 21 meeting.

The workshops, planned for the auspicious weekend of April 19 and April 20, will be held in coordination with the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and other cannabis regulatory agencies. The workshops will be held in Laytonville, Willits, Ukiah, and Fort Bragg, and will include presentations from different agencies and county departments, followed by time for individual cultivators to talk with staff and ask their specific application questions.

Interim Agricultural Commissioner Diane Curry said that ag department staff are developing a draft of a cultivator permit application based on the current draft of the county’s proposed new regulations, but they are waiting for some additional information from the CDFA — which will be issuing the state-level licenses that will be required for all commercial cannabis farmers in 2018 — from the local air quality district, and final instruction from county supervisors. The new cultivation ordinance will go in effect 30 days after it is approved. Once the application is available, she said, it will be posted on the department’s webpage and emails will go out to cultivators and local cannabis advocacy groups.

In addition to the new county rules, the state will be requiring cultivators to track their plants with a unique identifier from each seed to its final sale, and Curry said Mendocino County has selected a  “track and trace” vendor to be part of the new county program.

Staff from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, CDFW, CDFA, and possibly also county planning department staff will also attend the workshop, give brief presentations about requirements for cultivators, and have tables set up to answer individual questions. These agencies play different roles in regulating cannabis growers, depending on their gardens, and many farmers will need to apply for additional permits to come into compliance.

Curry explained that the staff is planning to help cultivators with applications prior to the deadline to help prevent errors and smooth out the permit processing system. She noted the need for application assistance was “one of the things we learned from Humboldt,” where a significant number of more than 2000 cannabis permit applications submitted had inaccurate information or were otherwise incomplete. She added that since the application will require a fee, it will benefit both growers and staff to ensure that there aren’t complications in processing permits. The department is also considering establishing a weekly time for cultivators to come to the offices to get assistance with applications and the new regulatory requirements.

“We’re really excited,” Curry said of the new regulations, adding the that ag department plans for the permitting process to go “as smooth as we can make it.” In addition to a new assistant who is overseeing the program and staff already on board, she hopes to hire a total of six new biologists to assist the four already with the department, but all staff will be engaging in some ways with the cultivation program, she said, including the three senior field staff who are experienced in conducting farm inspections.

The draft of the county’s new cultivation ordinance is scheduled to be heard by the supervisors on Tuesday, March 21. Workshops are scheduled to take place in these locations:

April 19th: 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Garden Club, 375 Harwood Road, Laytonville CA

April 19th: 2:30 – 5 p.m. Willits Senior Center, 1501 Baechtel Road, Willits CA

April 20th: 9:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. Veterans Hall, 360 N. Harrison Street, Fort Bragg CA

April 20th: 4 – 7 p.m. Ukiah Fairgrounds, Fine Arts Building 1055 North State Street, Ukiah CA

You can call (707) 234-6830, or email before April 14th to register.

March 16, 2017 Kate B. Maxwell

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