MENDOCINO Co., 3/05/19 — The Mendocino County Board of Supervisor's Ad Hoc Committee on Cannabis Cultivation, consisting of supervisors John McCowen and John Haschak, will be holding meetings in Willits, Fort Bragg, and Covelo this week, to hear public input on the program and suggestions on how the regulations should be adjusted.
The meetings will take place in Willits on Wednesday, March 6, at 5 p.m.; in Fort Bragg on Thursday, March 7, at 5 p.m.; and in Covelo on Friday, March 8, at 2 p.m. (for full scheduling details see below) -- and The Mendocino Voice will livestream at least one of the meetings for those who can't make it on Facebook.
Mendocino County's cannabis permit regulatory program was first implemented in 2016, and since then the county, much like the state of California, has considered a number of potential changes to the cannabis licensing program to make the program work more smoothly for local businesses, cannabis farmers, and in coordination with the numerous state agencies now regulating the adult use cannabis market in California.
The meetings will focus on potential changes to the cannabis cultivation ordinance, including transferability of licenses, and what the process will be when the licensing program re-opens (except for certain zones) in 2020. You can read the full agenda here, and also read the committee's statement. The committee is recommending that:
..."transferability" ought to be allowed, and therefore recommends that on or after January 1, 2020, new owners or new partners in existing cultivation sites in Rangeland, Forest Land and Timber Production Zones ought to be able to apply for cultivation permits. The process by which this would occur is open for discussion. Some options would require an Administrative Permit or a Use Permit."from the county's 3/5/19 press release concerning the upcoming ad hoc meetings
These community meetings — one way the Board of Supervisors seeks to gather public opinion about potential regulatory changes — come on the heels of a number of shifts in the county's cannabis licensing program, which has been plagued by organizational disruption due to a number of absences in key positions, some lack of clarity around regulatory implementation, conflict over contracts for software vendors, and significant delays in processing applications for cannabis cultivation permits, hundreds of which remain under review or not fully approved. Cultivators living in the coastal zone are still excluded from the application process — which is closed until 2020 — while a number of cultivators in the "cannabis accommodation combining districts" can still apply until July, 2019.
All cannabis business owners must receive permitting approval from local jurisdiction as well as the state, and some differences between the county and state regulations could be resolved by changes to the county's ordinances. In addition to changes on the local level, California's Department of Food and Agriculture, which regulates cannabis farming, has implemented a number of statewide regulatory changes over the last several years, including a change in the proposed size of cannabis farms resulting in a lawsuit from a farmers' advocacy group. The state is now facing a potential gap in licensing as local farms await permit approval from the state as their local temporary licenses expires, and the North Coast's two state legislators, State Senator Mike McGuire and Assemblyman Jim Wood, have co-sponsored legislation, SB 67, that is making it's way through legislature to let farmers continue to produce and sell cannabis in the meantime.
After the abrupt departure of the county's first cannabis program manager, followed by a lengthy delay in re-filling the position, the county's second hire of a cannabis program manager, Sean Connell, stepped into the position at the end of 2018. The last Cannabis Ad Hoc Committee, which included Supervisor McCowen and retired supervisor, Dan Hamburg, faced absences from Hamburg while proposing changes to the permitting program — an echo of the absence of former Supervisor Tom Woodhouse, who also served on the committee prior to his resignation. Hamburg previously recused himself from many of the ordinance discussion, leaving only three supervisors to discuss changes during Woodhouse's absence. Two new supervisors, Ted Williams and John Haschak, joined the board in 2019, and additional changes to the cultivation ordinance, as well as discussions about how the county will address GMO cannabis and hemp farming, are also underway. However, the main focus of the meeting's this week will be potential changes to the cannabis cultivation ordinance, including license transferability, and the process for re-opening licenses in 2020, including what type of permit will be required.
Here's the video of the most recent Cannabis Ad Hoc Committee meeting held in 2018 in Willits, led by Supervisor McCowen; additional changes to the ordinance were made after this meeting but prior to the new supervisors taking their seats.
Meeting times, dates and locations
Willits Community MeetingInformation from Mendocino County's 3/1/19 press release.
DATE: Wednesday, March 6, 2019
TIME: 5pm - 6:30pm
WHERE: Willits Community Center, 111 E. Commercial St., Willits, CA 95490
Fort Bragg Community Meeting
DATE: Thursday, March 7, 2019
TIME: 5pm - 6:30pm
WHERE: Fort Bragg Veterans Hall, 360 N. Harrison St., Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Covelo Community Meeting
DATE: Friday, March 8, 2019
TIME: 2pm - 3:30pm
WHERE: Covelo Community Center, 23925 Howard St., Covelo, CA 95428