Monday, October 5, 2015

Cultivation Choices Committee Moves Into Their Second Quarter

County Cannabis Committee to Grapple over Governance

The Santa Cruz County Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee will hold their fourth meeting Tuesday at the Simpkins Center beginning at 9:30am.  Seven more meetings are on the calendar before their term ends December 23rd.

The agenda includes a presentation by County Planning Director Kathy Previsich on  “Land Use Planning as part of a regulatory framework”.   Before that, the committee is scheduled to discuss the ordinances and resolution which govern the 13 member committee.  

At last week’s’ meeting, committee members asked the County staff to provide clarification on whether or not they should have an elected chair and vice chair from among their ranks vs having the county staff continue to plan and run the meetings. (Account of last weeks meeting can be found here.)

The committee was created by the BOS in June for the purpose of creating “policy recommendations” that the Board might consider in developing a new cannabis cultivation ordinance after their previous attempt had to be rescinded.     

The BOS set a timeline of 6 months for the committee and directed County staff to support their work by posting notices of the meetings, recording the meetings and providing minutes of the meetings.  In addition they directed that a facilitator be hired who lived in the county, had experience in agriculture law, government and law and “with proven facilitation experience”.  

County staff is holding the opinion that the Board of Supervisors “implied” that a county hired facilitator would assume the duties of a chair and vice-chair.  County staff says they intend to return to the BOS to have this structure formalized with a specific “exception” which would require an amendment to the original ordinance.  (The fact that County staff recognizes the need for BOS action implies to me that a chair and vice chair elected by the committee is required absent a specific “exception”.)

The significance of the issue has to do with how the meeting agendas and schedules are developed and how the committee will approach their ultimate work product.  To date, the calendar and presentations have been developed by the consultant although the committee forced some changes following a presentation that focused, some thought too heavily, on the problems associated with cannabis cultivation.

Some members have expressed concern that their charter: developing specific policy recommendations (with acceptable language that can be used to craft a new ordinance); is being delayed in favor of extensive fact gathering, some of which may or may not be relevant to any actual policy recommendations the committee was created to consider.

The committee has until Dec 23 to submit their recommendations.

The BOS will not be bound by any recommendations the committee might offer but the potential of  citizen’s initiative reaching the ballot by June or November 2016 seems real if the BOS does not adopt an acceptable ordinance before that time.

Cultivation Choices Committee Hears From Cannabis Community Members

Advocates Present "Cannabis 101" 

The Santa Cruz County Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee continued their fact finding at their third meeting Tuesday.  This time though, it was committee members, specifically those representing various local cannabis advocacy groups, who led the discussion.

After Susan Pearlman from the CAO’s office called the meeting to order she distributed the agenda and summary notes from the first two meetings and asked the members for approval.  

(In oral communications I asked if the results of the initial “values” exercise might be included in the record.  I also expressed the opinion that I believed the committee meetings should be chaired by a citizen member and that the chair and vice chair should be selected by the members.)

A motion was made to make audio recordings of the meetings.  Members agreed with the stipulation that no transcription of the recording was necessary or desired.

Eric Olsen, county consultant then took the floor for his “Context for Conversation” slides.  In rapid succession and without discussion he asked whether a “market analysis” should be undertaken to determine “What is actually happening here?  He also thought the committee should be considering “How have our policies, enforcement strategies, culture and private sector created this situation? and “What can we do together to create new models that achieve our three goals?
His second slide was a chart that compared population density in Santa Cruz County to selected other counties and was titled “Reality Check: Santa Cruz is small and heavily populated”

Next came a list of “Our Common Interests”  which ironically did not include cannabis cultivation or distribution - and finally a slide with the title of “Data Driven Decision Making” which included these questions: “How far should cannabis industry be from schools, parks, youth centers? Do our views differ by geography and ethnicity?  Where and how should we allow cannabis to be grown?”

The last slide also included a chart with a public opinion poll showing what likely voters in California think about legalizing marijuana and how opinions differ by party affiliation and ethnicity. Olsen suggested that the County might fund some public polling and committee members should consider what questions they would like to see asked.

At that point Olsen and Pearlman turned the floor over to Cricket Roberto, a committee member representing RCSC, (the coalition of cannabis industry advocates who spearheaded the signature gathering for the petition which resulted in the Board of Supervisors rescinding the most recent cultivation ordinance).

For the next 90 minutes or more Roberto, and fellow committee members Colin Disheroo, Patrick Malo and Kim Sammet narrated a slide show that covered basic topics from plant physiology and life cycle to extraction, infusion and marketing.  The group fielded questions from other committee members on a wide range of subjects.

The presentation was cut short before the final slides on distribution and economics could be shared but in general it was well received and the questions from other committee members were thoughtful

The meeting then moved to attempts to organize small group field trips and future meeting agendas.  

Accounts of the previous two meetings can be found here and here

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Cannabis Committee Members Ponder Next Steps

C4 Members listen to County Attorneys at Simpkins Center (photo by Jason Hoppin)

After a harmonious first meeting, the Santa Cruz County Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee (C4) reconvened Tues at the Simpkins Center with a few hiccups mainly around how best to proceed through "fact finding" exercises as they strive to draft recommendations for a new County ordinance.

County CAO Analyst Susan Pearlman opened the meeting by distributing more printed reading material to add to the over 500 pages already given to each member. She referenced the the first of these - an article published in 2014 in Mother Jones titled The Landscape-Scarring, Energy-Sucking, Wildlife-Killing Reality of Pot Farming - before telling the public that they were welcome to submit documents or ideas, to her for distribution to the committee. 

After explaining the public comment policy to the 20 or more in attendance she invited anyone to speak. Once again their were only a few from the audience who chose to speak.

Pearlman then pulled the first item on the agenda- a discussion of the recently passed state legislation.  - saying that since the Governor has yet to sign the bill it would be premature and should be rescheduled.  

Some committee members expressed concern that the legislation, if signed, will have a significant impact on the their work and should be reviewed sooner than later.  Some noted that it will take the State years to promulgate all the rules, others pointed to compliance dates that may need to be met on the local level.  

Two attorneys from the County then presented an overview of the current county ordinance. They asked that the focus of any questions be on “the what and not the why”.

According to the County attorneys under the current county ordinance
  • an individual, with a medical recommendation, is allowed to cultivate with restrictions.  A number of these restrictions were discussed. This is where the 100 sq ft combined canopy plays a significant role; another applies only to residents of the 2nd district (Aptos, Seacliff) who apparently can only grow indoors.  

  • Commercial cultivation is illegal.  Despite that simple language, the ordinance provides a series of caveats that while not “permitting” commercial cultivation, set out various rules based upon zoning, size of parcel, setbacks, etc., that if followed could provide a “limited immunity” from criminal prosecution. Chief among these restriction are that  “Every medical cannabis cultivation business is prohibited that is not collectively or cooperatively cultivating cannabis for medicine: (1) for use among its members or (2) to provide medicine to a Santa Cruz County medical cannabis business as defined in and operating under Chapter 7.124 SCCC”  And “Every medical cannabis cultivation business is prohibited if: The location contains more than 99 cannabis plants;” (So all commercial cultivation is prohibited and especially so if there are 100 or more plants. ed)

The one “why” question that was addressed concerned the apparent “legal ambiguity” which was justified as a remedy to the perceived conflicts between state and/or federal laws.    

In response to questioning about current enforcement practices, County counsel noted that the Sheriff is a constitutional officer sworn to uphold state law, nonetheless he pointed out that Sheriff Hart has said his resources would be more focused on code enforcement (as opposed to criminal prosecution) by cultivators and that actions would be primarily complaint driven.  He also defended  recent actions by the Sheriff’s office that resulted in eradication of some plants at various sites saying that they were bringing the cultivators into compliance with the 99 plant rule.
Consultant Eric Olsen then led a discussion around how the committee would proceed. He suggested an exercise to "triage" the issues and discussed how members in small groups should make field trips to gather information to share with the committee as a whole.

The next item on the agenda - “Conditions in the Field”  was a presentation by a pair of staffers from the County Planning Department, and a representative from CAL FIRE.  A slide show, with now familiar photos of cultivation sites, showing environmental damage caused by fire, illegal grading etc. as well as Google Earth images and other photos were followed by questioning from committee members.  

The Planning Department slide deck is due to be published on the Committee's Website.

Members raised a broad range of questions like what was the level of resources and time the agencies were being required to commit to incidences related to cultivation sites and what types of mitigation or remediation might be expected with new regulations? Many members appeared to be looking for quantifiable data as well as suggestions from all three presenters on how to move forward.

Fifth District appointee Eric Hammer wanted to know how revenue from the Measure K tax was affecting the department. He was told a new half time position had been created and that person was spending half their time on cultivation issues.

In spite of repeated reminders that the committee was falling behind schedule, members continued to discuss among themselves both the previous presentation and how they wished to proceed.  One questioned the need to continue “fact finding” regarding environmental impacts. He wondered if the committee really needed to learn more about fish spawning.  

Kim Sammet, a committee member representing SCM2, a Santa Cruz Mountain group, suggested that a focus on best management practices would be a more useful way to proceed.. This pivot seemed well received by many members - as well as much of the audience - and suggestions for future presenters were solicited and offered including representatives from WAMM as well as prominent state and national cannabis advocate organizations

A scheduled brainstorming session to set priorities was abandoned and Pearlman and Olsen requested that committee members submit their suggestions for future agenda items and presenters in writing and that an attempt would be made to accommodate their wishes prior to the next meeting Sep 29.

Monday, September 21, 2015

SLVHS Hires Kellen Coffis to Coach Girls Varsity Soccer Team.

Ben Lomond Musician to Coach Lady Cougars

SLV High School Principal Karen van Putten and Athletic Director Mark Mercer announced that SLV alum Kellen Coffis will become the head coach of the Girls Varsity Soccer team for the 2015-16 season.  

Coffis, 26, is a graduate of Notre Dame de Namur University  He played midfield for the Division II Pacific Western Conference Argos.  He also played two seasons at Cabrillo College including the 2008 Conference Champion team that reached the State final four.  As a prep Coffis was selected to the All SCCAL team three years running and received All County honors in his senior year as he led Cougars into the CCS playoffs.

He has had a long association with the Santa Cruz County Breakers as a coach and trainer. He lives in Ben Lomond where he teaches guitar and is a vocalist and guitarist for the Coffis Brothers and The Mountain Men, a rock and roll band.

Friday, September 18, 2015

County Cannabis Commission Meets Tues to Set Priorities

Reps From County, CAL FIRE and CDFW to Make Presentations 

Prioritization of community issues and needs appears to be the main action item on the proposed agenda for the second meeting of the Santa Cruz County Cultivation Choices Committee (C4) when they meet Tues Sep 22, 9:30AM at the Simpkins Center on 17th Ave.

In a note accompanying the agenda, County Consultant Eric Olsen asked Commissioners to review the “stakeholder and issue mapping” notes transcribed from the Sep 8 meeting with a view toward determining which need to be addressed " quickly as possible" and which are going to take longer.

Before they get to that task the Commission will hear comments from County Staff on “Compromise Medical Marijuana Legislation”; a review by County Counsel on the “Current County Ordinance”; as well as a presentation on “Conditions in the Field” involving representatives from the County Planning Dept, CAL FIRE and California Dept of Fish and Wildlife.

The meeting is open to the public and is expected to end around noon.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

High Hopes - Santa Cruz County Cannabis Cultivation Choice Commission Holds First Meeting

It was mostly peace and love with a couple of nods to rock and roll Tuesday in Live Oak at the first ever meeting of the C4 - aka the The Santa Cruz County Cannabis Cultivation Choice Commission.

The Commissioners only official action of the day came when they quickly agreed to meet each Tuesday morning beginning Sept 22 until at least November probably at the Simpkins Center at 9:30 am.

In a narrow meeting room at the Live Oak Senior Center, at a long “L” shaped table, 13 Commissioners appointed by the Board of Supervisors; a county clerk and two hired consultants were seated.  In front of each was a large binder full of hundreds of pages of documents. A half dozen county management staff including the CAO and a deputy county counsel were in attendance and Another dozen or more members of the public were seated or stood at one end of the room.  

In addition to one representative from each County district and three at large appointees, five organized local interest groups are represented: The Cannabis Advocates Alliance(CAA), The Association for Standardized Cannabis (ASC), Responsible Cultivation Santa Cruz (RCSC), The Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance (SCVA) and Santa Cruz Mountains for Sustainable Cannabis Medicine (SCM2)

After brief introductions, instructions from County Administrative Officer Susan Pearlman, and a discussion of the Brown Act led by a Deputy County Counsel, the event began with an invitation for public comment to which a very few voices expressed short statements.

Aptos attorney Eric Olsen, a former Washington DC area resident with experience in both public and private sectors in policy development and advocacy, was hired by the County to facilitate. He  took the floor and presented a short slideshow as a “Context for Conversation”.

(Olsen had previously met individually with many of the commissioners. He wrote The Cannabis Chronicles, v.1 and had it posted on the Commission’s website  In it he says of the commission,  “ will be essential for all of us to build trust, mutuality, and empathy with each other if we are going to be successful.”)

He began his power point with a list of aspirations:
  • How can we become a model for the state and nation? 
  • What are our shared Santa Cruz values, vision and brand we want to guide our choices?
  • What do we want our new narrative to be?

and included a list of stakeholders::

  • Our environment
  • Our youth and community health
  • Fire and emergency service
  • Law enforcement
  • Government regulators/policy
  • Medical cannabis users
  • Medical cannabis growers
  • Dispensary owners
  • Other related industries
  • The incarcerated
and concluded with these questions:

  • What current policies and industry practices do we want to conserve?
  • What do we want to say “no” to?
  • What do we need to know to develop effective regulation?
  • What risks do we address and how?
  • What are the carrots and sticks toward compliance?

The full slide show can be found here;

Olsen then invited commissioners to spend time brainstorming on shared Santa Cruz values, vision and brand.  One by one, top of mind words and phrases made their way via colored felt pens onto a wall of poster sheets.  Most of the usual Santa Cruz virtues and vices were offered along with anecdotes in support or defense.  

(The entirety of the list will likely be transcribed and become part of the public record.)  

It was an interesting glimpse into both the formed opinions and thoughtfulness that the group was obviously prepared to make over the next few months.
In response to one commissioner’s mention of the “permissive drug culture” several members offered examples of how cannabis use in the County has had positive impacts like contributing to innovation or tolerance. One spoke about how his young children were aware that their grandmother was using Cannabis in her fight with cancer and how that was informing their view.  

After a break for lunch the group reconvened and agreed to meet once a week. They then engaged in another exercise where in pairs or threes they rotated around the room to five “stakeholder” slides where they listed core questions and issues related to each.

The five groups of stakeholders were:
  • Environment
  • Youth and Community Safety
  • Government Regulations
  • Law Enforcement and Emergency Response
  • Cannabis Supply Chain

After the commissioners finished with this, there was some discussion and additions to each area. Some public input occurred during this process but the room had to be vacated by 2pm and the meeting was adjourned.

The next meeting is scheduled for Sept 22.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Citizen's Cannabis Commission Will Hold First Meeting Tuesday in Live Oak

Hammer, Sammet, Hoffman Among Local Appointees

Eric Hammer of Brookdale, Kim Sammet of Boulder Creek and Eric Hoffman of Bonny Doon are among the the thirteen members of the Santa Cruz County Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee (C4). The Board of Supervisors created the group to craft new policy recommendations in the wake of a citizen’s referendum which required the Board to rescind an ordinance they passed by a split vote in June. The overturned ordinance sought to impose greater restrictions on cultivation in response to concerns amid reports of poor practices which were said to adversely affect the environment or quality of life.  

The commission will hold their first meeting Tues at 10 am at the Live Oak Senior Center. The meetings are open to the public

Hammer was nominated as Supervisor McPherson’s appointee for the 5th district, Hoffman is the Ryan Coonerty appointee for the 3rd District; Sammet was appointed as a representative of the Santa Cruz Mountains for Sustainable Cannabis Medicine (SCM2) one of five industry organizations given seats on the panel.  The other members are Steve Premo, Bob Kennedy, Nick Bulaich, Shebreh Kantari-Johnson, Rahn Garcia, Tom Burns, Colin Disheroon, D’Angelo “Cricket” Roberto, Patrick Malo and James Sweatt.

Eric Olsen, an Aptos attorney and former counsel with the US Dept of Agriculture has been hired by the County to facilitate the work of the group.  All the meetings will be open to the public and their work is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cannabis Activists Urge All Patients, Providers to Contact Gov Brown


(Scroll down for latest update.)

A number of local activists, patients and advocates intend to join counterparts from throughout the state in Sacramento to voice their concerns over AB 266 which comes before the Senate Appropriations Committee tomorrow.

Chief among the concerns expressed are:

  • AB 266 does not protect patient access, will reduce the amount of available medicine and increase costs.

  • AB 266 criminalizes providers who have been acting in good faith within existing state and local frameworks.

  • AB 266 carves out an exemption for the largest city in the state.

  • AB 266 will inhibit or prevent  new entrants into the industry and could create monopolies in the distribution, delivery and testing  

  • AB 266 creates an onerous and overly complex regulatory framework involving no less than 11 state agencies as well as providing for cities and counties to create more regulations including an outright ban.

According to lobbyists, AB 266 represents the most comprehensive legislation ever written in California to regulate the 19 year old medical cannabis industry.  The bill has the support of a number of special interest groups representing law enforcement, labor and cities and counties and has moved through Sacramento with little opposition.

The bill spreads regulatory authority among 11 different state agencies. It creates an “Office of Marijuana Regulation” within the Office of the Governor,  a new Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation within the State Board of Equalization, a Division of Medical Cannabis Manufacturing and Testing within the California Department of Public Health, and a Division of Medical Cannabis Cultivation within the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Each new regulatory body would have a year to promulgate rules.  The costs are estimated to be in excess of $20 million for the first year.

Further amendments to AB 266 Made As Governor’s Office Looks At Costs

This just in:

“California Cannabis Coalition, Crusaders for Patient’s Rights, Patient Advocacy Network, Axis of Love and several other statewide activists just completed a conference call with Senator Bonta’s office regarding the changes to AB266. The good news is that they have dropped the arbitrary July 1, 2015 date for provisional licenses. In fact, they have dropped the provisional licenses altogether.”

“Now the bad news. They have NOT dropped the Measure D exemption. They have also not yet included language that will ensure affordability for truly needy patients.
“In addition, they have been made aware that the restrictive definition of the word “primary caregiver” will make affordable access more difficult for those participating in the allowed small collective grows of five patients or fewer should this legislation pass despite our efforts.”
Read the full report with a letter to the Governor and other information on actions you can take here .

You can read a comprehensive analysis from a patient’s rights advocate here:

For information on tomorrow’s Sacramento schedule:

Saturday, August 15, 2015


In the wake of the latest County raids of private property in the Santa Cruz Mountains lots of speculation but few answers.

The newly formed Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Marijuana Compliance Team conducted raids of at least 15 cannabis cultivation operations outside of Boulder Creek on Thursday, destroying dozens or more plants at over 15 locations.

Calvin Men in the Santa Cruz Sentinel:

Thursday's actions were conducted in relatively easily accessible, contiguous family neighborhoods, From fifteen to twenty or more personnel were involved, not all local, for about 8 hours.  Fifteen or more separate operations were disrupted.  Many of the growers I spoke with and saw had some number of plants they were allowed to keep.

The shifting relationship between cannabis cultivators and Santa Cruz County Government has been seismic of late and the recent rebuff of proposed new restrictions by citizen's referendum seems to have escalated indiscriminate enforcement of dubious legal claim.

Much more to come.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Raids Near Town has Boulder Creek on Edge

Raids off of Bear Creek Has Boulder Creek on Edge

Cannabis Advocates, Cultivators Fear Retaliation For Referendum

Some plants were untouched, most cut at base.

Boulder Creek CA Aug 15, 2015  Around 9 am yesterday, armed and uniformed agents of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s office served warrants and conducted raids on at least a dozen small size cannabis cultivation operations on private property just outside the town of Boulder Creek.  The raids began at a home south of Bear Creek,and continued at various properties throughout the area until around 5pm.   The total number of warrants served is unknown at the moment.  The combined number of plants destroyed is in the thousands

No arrests have been reported but the town, and the wider cannabis community has been abuzz with shared stories and speculation.

Around  two dozen personnel with a small fleet of vehicles went from house to house, serving warrants, searching property and cutting plants.   Many of the growers have been in business for years, have model operations and produce award winning, high quality products.

The economic damage was still being assessed, plants were weeks from harvest,  but most estimates were in the millions of dollars.  

“This will hurt a lot of families.”  said one long time Boulder Creek resident who has some property under cultivation.  “Some of the smaller growers are really crop to crop.  They won’t be able to live here anymore, they’ll have trouble with mortgage payments or paying off bills.”

There was a mix of fear and anger in the voices of many who met at a local coffee house Fri morning. Representatives of many of the local political and business organizations which have become active in the wake of the Board of Supervisors shifting policies on cultivation in the county were on hand to hear first hand accounts and consider legal strategies.

In one of the more unusual accounts one land owner successfully saved his crop by telling the officer that he would name him personally in a civil suit if he were to destroy his plants. Another grower said that he was offered a deal: if he agreed to go and cut some plants and carry them up the hill they would let him keep some others.

According to some the commanding officer seemed confused about what ordinance or law was being enforced, telling some they were allowed only a 10 x 10 sq ft garden - and then cutting everything outside a 10 x 10 and leaving one plot.  In other cases growers were allowed to say which plants they wanted to keep. Often a few plants were left untouched, in plain sight.  

This is a developing story and we will do our best to keep up.  We have reached out to the Sheriff’s office and Supervisor McPherson for comment.