Sunday, October 18, 2015

Citizens’ Cannabis Group Continues Deliberations

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Cannabis Advocate to Speak at Next Meeting of C4

Jim Coffis

The Santa Cruz County Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee (C4) departed from their published agenda last Tuesday and after hearing more presentations from county officials, focused on economic development particularly with regards to cannabis cultivation in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

At their next meeting, Tues 9am at Simpkins Center, they will consider yet another revised calendar and hear from County Staff about any steps being taken to address deadlines set for local jurisdictions included in the new State law.

The committee will also hear from Kristin Nevedal, director of the Patient Focused Certification program from Americans for Safe Access, vice chair of the Emerald Growers Association in Humboldt County and instructor at Oaksterdam University on environmental sustainability and best management practices.

At their fifth meeting the C4 heard a brief summary of the comprehensive new State laws on cannabis cultivation but continued to avoid any specific policy recommendations they intend to recommend to the Board of Supervisors by the end of the year.

The meeting included a pair of presentations by County planners Kristen Kittleson and Matt Johnson. Kittleson spoke about the effects on the watershed from erosion and runoff.  She noted that cannabis cultivation is only the latest and not the only activity that puts pressure on the ecosystem particularly the spawning of Coho and Steelhead.  She suggested the panel consider policies that focused on protecting the watershed including limiting the amount of timberland conversion, establishing appropriate buffers from creeks and streams, promoting best practices to limit pesticide and nitrate run-offs and possibly requiring a conservation plan from cultivators.

Matt Johnson, the County Environmental Planner discussed the conundrum that some of the most sensitive habitats like the sandhills are also among the most favored for outdoor cannabis cultivation.  He noted the fees associated with environmental assessments are significant and cautioned that there was a tipping point when it comes to regulations and permits that when reached causes people to work outside of the system.

Both Johnson and Kittleson agreed that there are rules and regulations currently in the County code sufficient to deal with most of the issues being discussed but that too often people ignore them.      

After a recess and in groups of three, the committee members discussed a wide variety of topics from licensing and fees to grow sizes, to approvals, inspections and enforcement.  Each group reported out a list of ideas. (Complete lists are included the meeting notes prepared by Susan Pearlman.)

There was more discussion, but no resolution, about  whether or not Sheriff Hart would be invited to share his thoughts.  Proposed local neighborhood meetings and field trips were also discussed.

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