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|Special meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Cannabis|
|Date||Monday February 05|
|Time||9:00 AM - 12:00 PM|
|Import this event into your personal calendar.|
|Santa Cruz County Building|
|Organizer/Author||Green Trade Santa Cruz|
The Board of Supervisors will be holding a special meeting beginning at 9 AM on Monday to consider whether or not to certify the Draft Environmental Impact Report or to follow staff recommendations and proceed with an entirely new "Non-retail Cannabis Business" ordinance.
On principle we advocate for Board certification of the DEIR however we do not believe the Board will choose that action. Instead the Board will discuss a new proposed ordinance and likely direct staff to make some changes based upon what they hear from constituents.
Your voice and presence at this meeting could be critical in determining what direction the Board takes. It is important to understand that we do not have the support of a majority of the Board for all of the changes we would like to see in this latest proposal however there are some issues that we might be able to get the Board to direct staff to consider before a final draft of the ordinance is prepared.
Here is a link to the agenda item and proposed new ordinance: http://santacruzcountyca.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=1688
With regards to the latest staff recommendations we have submitted the following issues to the Board:
We continue to recommend better alignment with the state terms, license types and key definitions. Collaboration between state and local agencies will be significantly enhanced if everyone is using the same terms. Businesses and consumers will also benefit from less uncertainty and confusion. Direct staff to align language more closely with the state. Of particular concern is the definition of canopy and how it is calculated.
Consider the addition of the 1C license type for existing small farmers or adopt additional provisions to include a “specialty cottage” license type. (see below)
Consider the elimination of the one mile extension of the Coastal Zone. There is no environmental or other sound reason for creating arbitrary boundaries that prohibit only one activity.
Reconsider restrictions created for TP zoned land. These parcels should be eligible for the same exceptions available in all zones regarding re-use and improvement of existing development.
Cannabis license applicants who provide sufficient evidence that cannabis or other agriculture was occuring or that the proposed canopy area is located in an area that already had existing development as of November 2016, should be eligible.
Consider a reduction in the acreage minimums to 2.5 acres. Adjust or eliminate the percentage of parcel size.
Direct staff to continue working with the local cannabis business community involved in warehousing, processing, transport, distribution and compliance activities to better align with state rules and ensure that a vital part of the supply chain can remain local and operate competitively.
Direct staff to continue working with the traditional agriculture community to ensure that cannabis regulations do not interfere or supersede existing agriculture rules which could affect food crop production.
Direct staff to develop a nursery license type to conform with existing state law.
Direct staff to work with WAMM, SC Vets Alliance, Community Prevention Partners and others to develop a true compassion program model that ensures continued access at no and low cost.
Consider the elimination of the prohibition on advertising as a violation of the first amendment, and to reflect the changes in state law since this was first considered.
Direct staff to clarify provisions banning the use of generators particularly as supplemental power sources and existing permitted uses in association with traditional agricultural activities. (If the intent is to ban certain types of generators as the primary source of power, that ban should not extend to those same generators that are used only as backups when the power fails. Nor should it include large commercial farm generator systems.)
If you plan to speak to the Board or submit written comments please offer examples of how the current proposed ordinance will adversely affect your ability to operate and why the recommended changes (particularly those above) make sense.
As always, expect to hear a lot of fear based objections from a segment of the audience. We should be courteous to all participants in this process and we should not allow unsubstantiated claims to go unanswered but trying to address specific unfounded concerns from those who will not accept the fact that commercial cannabis activities are legal, highly regulated by the state and safe may not be the best use of your time.
Below are some specific talking points that support our proposal for the inclusion of a “Specialty Cottage” license type which we do not expect the Board to adopt at this time. It does provides the framework for what we hope we will gain support for from a majority in the near future.
Our mantra in this endeavor will be “Preserve our Heritage, Protect Consumers and Improve the Environment.”
“Preserving our Heritage” means a path to licensing for existing cannabis cultivation that does not exceed what has been tolerated for the last several years. Small scale agricultural activities are currently permitted uses on most every parcel in the county. We want to preserve and encourage cultivation of cannabis, particularly in combination with other crops, that is done in the most environmentally appropriate way. We cannot allow the destruction of our well respected legacy in cannabis production.
“Protecting Consumers” means ensuring the ability to provide a wide range of cannabis products, strains and formulations designed to provide specific remedies and therapeutic benefits. Large scale monocrop operations will not be able to provide the diversity of strains we are used to producing locally. The legacy gardens in Santa Cruz are among the world’s best source of research and knowledge and we need to protect our ability to provide that tremendous benefit to consumers.
“Protecting Consumers” also means reducing taxes and allowing compassionate use programs. We support a reasonable tax but we believe taxes should be a part of an overall policy to achieve community goals. Using tax revenue to support new programs aimed at underfunded priorities like early childhood, opioid addiction, and environmental improvement should take priority over expenditures for a new “war on drugs” in the guise of growing local bureaucracies or eradication programs.
“Improving the Environment” means proactive measures to actually enhance our environment. “Environmental Protection” has too often become a “do nothing” approach, we need to take active steps like requiring best practices, banning the use of rodenticides, reforestation, soil improvement and more. Anyone receiving a license should submit a plan showing how they will make improvements to their land and remediate any existing environmental damage they may have caused.
Here are a few key talking points that we believe support our approach:
Prop 64 and subsequent State regulations have been enacted since proposed local ordinances were first drafted
Cannabis is a plant and growing it is an agricultural activity.
Small scale agriculture is a permitted use on almost all parcels in the county
Small scale traditional agricultural activities occur throughout the county on all types of parcels
Discrete, small scale cannabis cultivation has been happening in the county for generations.
Prop 64 provided a constitutional right for adults to grow cannabis for their personal use.
Santa Cruz County allows cultivation for personal use on most parcels
California has recognized the value of “cottage” industries of all types.
The state has recognized the value of this type of activity by creating a “Specialty Cottage” cannabis cultivation license
The “Specialty Cottage” State License type imposes more stringent canopy size restrictions than those found in any currently proposed local ordinance and is in line with what the county provided “limited immunity” in years past
The state "Specialty Cottage" cannabis license allows three tiers of operation: 25 plants outdoors, 500 sq ft indoors or 2500 sq feet of “mixed light”, (typically greenhouses). A vast majority of current cultivation in the county would be eligible for one of these state licenses.
Licensing, inspections and regulations represent the best opportunity to preserve legacy small scale cultivation, promote best practices, avoid environmentally inappropriate and other illegal activities, and resolve public nuisances
The year long, million dollar EIR concludes that the most permissive ordinance option would be the environmentally superior approach
State and local Licensing creates the best mechanism to regulate and enforce environmentally superior policies and practices,
The County has an opportunity to create even more stringent and substantive environmental restrictions than those expected from the state “organics standards” expected out later this year; like regenerative farming, closed loop systems, practices that support healthy soil and carbon sequestration like use of cover crops and compost, on-site resource acquisition, integrated pest management and more.
Biological remediation, reforestation, and other landscape enhancements should be a condition of licensing
A grower with only 6 plants should be allowed to acquire a license if he wants to sell the product of those plants (flower, trim, or seeds.)
A significant and rapidly growing number of consumers rely upon specific cannabis products developed and provided by small scale producers.
Research and development of specific hybrids and heritage strains depends upon the continued propagation of plants on a small scale
Fostering the existing small scale cannabis gardens and farms will provide increased tax revenue and reduce enforcement costs by focusing resources on environmental improvement and remediation
Easier access to licensing encourages compliance, makes regulating easier and reduces the number of unregulated operations.
Significant economic disruption can be avoided with an inclusive approach
Green Trade Santa Cruz
A Coalition of Cannabis Businesses