Thursday, August 25, 2016

Major Revisions Made to County Cannabis Registration Program

Saying her goal was to “make this work for everyone” County CAO Susan Mauriello directed her staff to significantly reduce the paperwork required for cultivators to register their intent to seek a license from the County.


The $3500 registration fee will also likely be reduced to reflect less cost to the county to process.


Among the changes will be an elimination of the Live Scan and the very detailed background information request as well as a number of the other forms that were originally included in the August 8 roll out. A new registration form is being finalized and should be available by the end of the month.  Deadline for registration remains November 6.


Mauriello emphasized that much of the information sought was for the purpose of establishing a baseline of data for use in determining the potential environmental impact of the proposed new ordinance.  In addition she said the county’s goal was to provide applicants with information about the new rules so that they could ensure they were in compliance or begin to work on becoming compliant to be eligible for local licensing in time to seek a state license when they become available in 2018.


“Cultivators need to understand that there may be a number of hurdles they will need to overcome in order to obtain a local license and we want to give them the time and information they need to be ready.”  said Mauriello.  


While admitting that things will be probably be “a little weird” for a year - cultivators need to remain compliant with the existing 99 plant ordinance even as they submit applications for operations under a new proposed ordinance - Mauriello encouraged anyone who is eligible and considering becoming a licensed cultivator in the future to register.  “We are not going to deny anyone a registration.  We will tell them where they may be deficient or if they need to move their operation.”


A number of workshops to answer questions and assist cultivators with the registration process will be held throughout the County including one in Felton on Wednesday, September 7 between 4:00 – 5:30 pm at the Community Hall.

Contact Jim Coffis (jcoffis@gmail.com) for more information.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Santa Cruz County To Begin Registering Cannabis Growers

Santa Cruz County to Launch Cannabis Cultivation Registration Program


Santa Cruz County officials are expected, within days, to begin accepting registrations from eligible parties interested in seeking a local license to grow medical cannabis for sale. The online registration process could roll out as early as August 11th, sources say. A 90-day registration window for eligible existing cultivators is among the provisions in the proposed new ordinance, which the Board of Supervisors approved in concept.

While the ordinance has not yet been passed, County staff have been moving ahead with the program in an effort to identify those who "intend to seek a local license" in the future. The information gathered will also be used as a “baseline” for evaluating the environmental impact of the new ordinance.

Licensing priority is given to growers who were operating before December 2013. There are some exceptions for persons who are involved non-cannabis commercial agriculture.

A Licensing Official, who will have broad discretion in approving or denying registrants - with little public oversight, is expected to be hired soon. Over 100 applications for that $140,000 position have been screened and final interviews are being conducted.

The registration process, will require prospective registrants to create an online “account” with basic identifying information. Various forms will need to be downloaded and completed, then uploaded to the system.  It is anticipated that the entire process will require some time to complete and therefore only the initial account setup will be required to be completed in the 90-day window.

A site visit from yet-to-be-hired code enforcement officials will be part of the process. A non-refundable fee of $3,500 will be collected.

The County plans to offer workshops and other technical assistance for prospective applicants. Local cannabis advocacy groups are also planning on providing help once they see the forms and review the various information the County will require..

Priority for review and acceptance of registration will be based upon how complete and compliant the registration is and not the date when the account was initially created.

In other developments the County has taken steps to include a new cannabis tax measure on the November ballot which amends Measure K to include growers and other related operations to the list of businesses subject to up to 10% tax.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Cannabis Cultivators Registration Process Under Development


Even as they prepare to interview applicants for the new Medical Cannabis Cultivation Licensing Official, Santa Cruz County staff are busy creating forms for a "registration" process for growers hoping to seek a local license.  Word is that they hope to have an online system and an information page up sometime in August.

The County is also looking to fill code enforcement and resource planner positions to support the program.  Applications for one of those positions closes on Friday July 22.  More information about those jobs can be found here:  http://www.jobaps.com/SCRUZ/

To "preserve a place in line" for a local license, qualified growers will be required to register their intent during a 90 day window.  Qualified personal grows, with no intent to share or sell product are not required to register.

The second reading of the revised dispensary ordinance is scheduled for the next Board of Supervisors meeting on Aug 2nd.  If approved, application forms for a local license for the 14 eligible dispensary operators will be posted.

In the meantime the proposed new cultivation ordinance is being reviewed by various County Commissions including the Fire Advisory Committee which meets Wednesday, Jul 20 at 4pm in Felton.  The Commission on the Environment will take up the matter at their next meeting, Wed July 27 in the Board of Supervisors Chambers at 5pm.

The Water Advisory Commissions will meet on Wed Aug 3, 4pm and the Fish and Wildlife Commission meets on Thursday Aug 4 at 7pm.  Both groups meet at the County Government Center, check their websites for exact locations.




Wednesday, May 25, 2016

SLVUSD Expands Transitional Kindergarten Program

San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District (SLVUSD) will be expanding the Transitional Kindergarten (TK) Program with classrooms available at both San Lorenzo Valley (SLVE) and Boulder Creek (BCE). In addition enrollment opportunities for an Extended Transitional Kindergarten (ETK) will be available for the first time.

SLVUSD will also be offering the transitional kinder opportunity to four year olds whose birthdays are in December, January, and February.  Registration is now open to all eligible students.  While funding and space are limited at this time the District hopes to add as many students as space allows.

TK classes are available for eligible four-year-old students whose birthdate falls between December 2011 and February 2012, and possibly into March 2012, depending on enrollment.

The following priority will be given in filling seats for TK and ETK:

  •  TK eligible students will have priority enrollment into the TK
  •  Four year olds who will turn five between September 2nd - December 2nd (per Ed. Code 48000)
  •  Then ETK eligible students will have priority enrollment based on their month of birth.
  •  First Priority: Four year olds who will turn five in December 
  •  Second Priority: Four year olds who will turn five in January 
  •  Third Priority: Four year olds who will turn five in February 
  •  Fourth Priority: Four year olds who will turn five in March 

TK and ETK students will be on the same school calendar and hours as the elementary Kindergarten program. If you are interested in attending TK or ETK at SLVE or BCE, please make sure you register your child at their respective elementary school.

A TK Parent Meeting is planned for August 2016 to welcome students and parents to TK.

Please note: both of these programs are not mandated by the state and are at the sole discretion of each individual district. In addition, transportation will not be provided for TK/ETK."




Thursday, May 19, 2016

San Lorenzo River Symposium Sat May 21

SECOND ANNUAL STATE OF THE SAN LORENZO RIVER SYMPOSIUM
TO FOCUS ON LAGOON HEALTH
 
Santa Cruz (May 12, 2016) – The City of Santa Cruz Water Department, the County of Santa Cruz, the Coastal Watershed Council and the Resource Conservation District will host the second annual State of the San Lorenzo River Symposium on Saturday, May 21, in recognition of National Rivers Day. This year’s event will focus on the history, science, fish and wildlife of the San Lorenzo River lagoon. Keynote speaker Geoffrey Dunn will open the symposium with a talk about the human history of the lower San Lorenzo River and lagoon.
 
An optional interactive tour of the lagoon will be offered immediately following the symposium.
 
The event will be held in the Louden Nelson Community Center Auditorium from 10:00a.m. – 1:00p.m., with the tour of the lagoon following from 1:15p.m. – 2:15p.m.
 
For more information please visit www.cityofsantacruz.com/SLRS2016 or call Jessica Missaghian at (831) 420-5475.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Community Choice Energy Supply Program Moving Forward

MONTEREY BAY COMMUNITY POWER FEASIBILITY STUDY VALIDATES CREATION OF LOCAL, CLEAN-SOURCE POWER AGENCY


Regional Plan Would Provide Consumer Choice, Increase Renewable Energy and Stimulate the Local Economy

 SANTA CRUZ, CA — May 3, 2016 — Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP), a regional project among local government agencies to provide electricity to residents and businesses throughout Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz Counties, announced today the completion of a feasibility study that validates the suitability of creating a new regional power agency which would provide renewable energy and create green jobs.

Empowered by California’s 2002 Community Choice Energy (CCE) law AB 117, a public committee comprised of representatives from Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey Counties has determined that a new agency would enable as many as 285,000 residential and business customers to choose clean-source power at a cost equivalent to PG&E, while retaining PG&E’s role in maintaining power lines and providing customer service. The new agency will be financially self-sustaining and would come at no cost to local government.

Building on successful Community Choice Energy programs in Sonoma and Marin Counties, the Monterey Bay Community Power plan provides local choice on energy generation, fosters more renewable energy, and stimulates economic vitality — all while utilizing existing PG&E infrastructure and service. When formed as early as Fall 2016, an agency that includes the three counties and their 18 cities could represent the largest CCE agency in California.

After three years of planning, a Project Development Advisory Committee has completed a feasibility study (http://www.montereybaycca.org/kris/SectionIV-TechStudyExecSummaryFINALD.pdf) on the viability of creating a CCE agency. Key findings include the possibility of:

  • Increasing the local power portfolio of renewables by more than twice what is now offered by PG&E and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by purchasing energy that is at least 70% GHG free.
  • Developing a long-term strategic goal of 100% regional energy self-sufficiency by building out local renewable generation projects, using revenue surplus that would otherwise have gone to PG&E shareholders.
  • Creating numerous construction jobs for renewable energy build-out, many permanent operations and maintenance jobs, and nearly $1.4 billion in total economic output.
  • Offering complementary programs that serve community interests such as net metering, comprehensive energy efficiency retrofits, community solar, electric vehicle charging, and support for local training programs.


“In keeping with our strong environmental values, we have in Monterey Bay Community Power the most meaningful chance in a generation to impact climate change,” said Santa Cruz County Supervisor Bruce McPherson, whose office organized the CCE exploration. “The idea that we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by increasing renewable energy at the same rates customers are currently paying for PG&E is game-changing.”

“The job creation potential represented by Monterey Bay Community Power is exciting,” said San Benito County Supervisor Jerry Muenzer. “The money saved by transitioning to a locally-controlled model will allow us to build and sustain solar and other renewable energy projects right here in our own community.”

The public is encouraged to join elected officials and staff in attending community study sessions scheduled in each of the three counties. The sessions will provide an opportunity to meet experts, learn how CCE works, review goals and recommendations for the project, hear additional results of the technical study, and examine legal and financing aspects of CCE.

STUDY SESSIONS PLANNED
  • Monterey County: May 24: 9:30 a.m. to noon, Monterey County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 168 West Alisal Street, 1st Floor, Salinas.
  • Santa Cruz County: June 9: 9:30 a.m. to noon, Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 701 Ocean Street, Room 500, Santa Cruz.
  • San Benito County: June 9: 3-5:30 p.m., San Benito County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 481 4th Street, 1st Floor, Hollister. 

“The study sessions provide a great opportunity to get engaged in a project that will improve accountability and transparency in the delivery of our electricity,” said Salinas City Councilmember Steve McShane. “From the coastline to the valleys, Monterey Bay Community Power has the potential to increase regional resilience by determining the mix of energy available to ratepayers.”

ABOUT MONTEREY BAY COMMUNITY POWER

Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) is a regional project among local government agencies to provide electricity to residents and businesses throughout Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz Counties through the Community Choice Energy (CCE) model. Established in 2002 by a state law, AB 117, CCE enables communities to choose clean-source power at a cost equivalent to PG&E while retaining PG&E’s role in maintaining power lines and providing customer service. The CCE model helps ensure local economic vitality because money from rates paid by local customers stays local, which helps to fund renewable energy projects, create jobs and stimulate the economy. For more information,visit www.mbcommunitypower.org or www.facebook.com/montereybaycommunitypower.



Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cannabis Committee Recommends "Provisional" Licensing for Small Home Grows

More Recommendations to Be Sent to Board of Supervisors
By Jim Coffis

In another marathon meeting, the Santa Cruz County Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee (C4) added to the list of recommendations they are forwarding to the Board of Supervisors.


On Tuesday morning the The Board of Supervisors accepted a number of recommendations from their 13 member citizens group and directed County staff to consider how they could be incorporated into a new ordinance.  Later in the day the C4 met to consider a long list of additional recommendations including the creation of a “Provisional” license meant to provide existing cultivators with some time to become fully compliant with the the new ordinance while the County creates a local licensing system.  


While deferring on the specific details of the "provisional license", the group voted 8-2 to recommend small home growers be included in the program. In their previous meeting they had split 6-7 on recommending a license tier for home based occupations, effectively banning the smallest growers.


How the recommendation will be received by the Board of Supervisors remains to be seen but it does provide hope for thousands of current cultivators who felt they were being ignored in favor of larger scale operations.

In other significant recommendations the group voted in favor of allowing sales outside of the County, against a numerical cap on licenses, and to give priority to growers who could show proof that they had been operating in the County prior to Jan 1, 2016.

They also urged the BOS to pass a resolution calling on the Federal Government to declassify Marijuana from the schedule of dangerous drugs.

The full Board is expected to consider all the offered recommendations and others in the coming weeks. County staff is hoping to present language for the ordinance as well as an implementation schedule before summer.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Group Votes to Recommend Ban on Sale of Santa Cruz Home Grown Pot

Also Recommended: New Taxes, Ban on GMO, Provisional Licensing Program

Jim Coffis

The 13 member Santa Cruz County Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee (C4) tasked with developing recommendations on the regulation of cannabis cultivation in Santa Cruz County is recommending a ban on all GMO cannabis and almost all home grown plants.


(Cultivation strictly for personal medical use - no sale or donation, would be allowed, with some restrictions.)


They also recommended giving licensing priority to growers and sites where cultivation has occurred prior to Jan 1, 2016 with a provisional licensing program for grows that meet “basic standards”.


By a reported 11-2, C-4 members also voted to recommend a new tax measure for the November 2016 ballot.


In all, the committee voted on over 20 specific policy statements at their last meeting March 29.  They’re scheduled to meet again Tuesday (12:30 Simpkins Center) and take up an additional 40 or more issues that they will send on to County Staff and the Board of Supervisors as recommendations for use in drafting a permanent local ordinance.  


Supervisors will hear all of the recommendations on April 19th and give further direction to the County Counsel who anticipates presenting a draft of a final ordinance by the end of May.   


While the group reached unanimous agreement on the GMO ban, they split 6-7 on permitting the home grows. 

The recommendations, if accepted, would ban all grows of any size, indoor or out, on parcels less than one acre except for so called indoor “warehouse” grows on selected commercial and manufacturing zones (C-4, M-1, M-2, M-3). Cultivators in those zones could grow up to the maximum allowable state limit of 22,000 square feet. 

It's estimated that more than two thirds of current grow sites could become illegal if the current recommendations were adopted.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Santa Cruz County Cannabis Cultivation Confusion Continues

Contention and Chaos over Cannabis Committee Report will Delay BOS Action



Jim Coffis

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors (BOS) was expected to take up cannabis cultivation at their next regular meeting on April 12.  At this time it appears the matter will  be put off until April 19th at the earliest because the Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee has failed to reach agreement on some of their recommendations.


Last December, the BOS approved adding a new chapter to the County Code creating the “Medical Cannabis Cultivation Licensing Program” (MCCLP).  They also approved two categories of commercial cannabis cultivation and extended the term of their 13 member Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee (C4). They asked the committee to provide additional recommendations for indoor and outdoor cultivation as well as to consider other issues related to business of medical cannabis like processing, distribution, transport, testing, etc.  


County Counsel Dana McCrae and her Chief Assistant Jason Heath, drafted what may have been the first local licensing ordinance in the state. At the time, it was offered as  a “foundation” with more “floors” and “finishing work” to come.  7.128 was adopted unanimously by the BOS but the previous ordinance 7.126 remained on the books.  


Additional confusion occurred after conflicting reports recently emerged, allegedly from the Sheriff’s office, giving the impression that the 7.126 would still be enforced but somewhat differently this year.  


Many County growers are anxious to learn exactly what the local legal framework will be as they prepare for their next growing season. Some are hoping to be ready to submit applications for state licenses when they become available.  A local license is a prerequisite.


Memorable 25th Meeting of the C4  


Despite meeting weekly, sometimes for 6 and 7 hours, the C4 had not reached agreement on all elements of their cultivation recommendations as of their last regular meeting on Tuesday March 29th.


Operating under a “nothing is final until it’s all final” approach and earnestly trying to reach the widest possible consensus, the C4 meetings have at times become tense as members circled back to issues thought resolved or they dealt with misunderstandings and disagreements about the process for addressing various sticking points.  


The last several meetings of the C4 were among their most contentious, with their last meeting, March 29th, almost ending before it started. Ultimately they met until late at night, long after most of the public had left.  


A number of C4 members expressed dissatisfaction that no final language options were available before or even at the meeting.  They agreed to proceed and did take a number of up or down votes but by their scheduled adjournment time of 7pm they were still considering a list of remaining unresolved issues.  They chose to postpone decisions on some but to order dinner and continue to work on others in hopes of finalizing something they could agree to send to the BOS.


Among the known remaining issues unresolved were those dealing with the smallest grow sizes affecting the largest number of local growers. Among their final votes late Tuesday, the committee split 6-7 on a proposal to license “home based cultivation”.


As a result, many of the county’s oldest small growers and established collectives would be banned outright and become ineligible for state licensing.


The C4 will meet again at 12:30 next Tuesday, Apr 12th, at the Simpklns Center with a goal of getting back on the BOS agenda by April 19th.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

2016 Santa Cruz County Cultivators Outreach Nets Lots of Numbers

Jim Coffis

Estimates on the total number of Santa Cruz County Residents who are growing pot vary widely but the first ever survey of local cultivators sheds some light on where, why and how cultivation occurs.

The Santa Cruz County Cultivators Outreach 2016, an anonymous online and paper survey, conducted by a group of Cannabis advocacy groups with cooperation from local dispensaries and garden supply vendors netted over 275 responses and a wealth of information.

70% of respondents say they are growing for their own personal use although many of them also admit to selling their product.  48% indicated they sell or donate product to local collectives or dispensaries and 30% say they sell outside of Santa Cruz County.

Local dispensaries reported $32 million in total sales last year but less than half of the growers indicated that some or all of their crop went to one the 14 approved outlets in the County.

Growers were asked about the approximate number of plants grown with various ranges from less than 10 to more than 1000. and the approximate square footage used to grow, using ranges from less than 100 sq ft to over 5000 sq ft.  Using the most conservative estimates, this group of growers accounted for over 40,000 plants on a combined total of less than 10 acres. 62% grow fewer than 100 plants.

 

Most respondents were growing outdoors, many in the Santa Cruz Mountains and nearly half in the Fifth Supervisorial district.  Among the largest growers by plant count more than half are in Districts 2 and 4 in the south county.  Overall 42% of all grows are indoors including 64% of the largest..  

Over 50% of indoor and 48% of outdoor grows are on parcels under one acre. 52% of all grows are on parcels zoned R(Residential) or RR (Rural residential).

The County Board of Supervisors will take up new cultivation regulations at a special meeting scheduled for April 12.  The appointed citizens committee (C4) formed to provide recommendations will begin finalizing their report at a special meeting on March 30th, time and place yet to be announced.