Sunday, December 13, 2015

C4 At Crossroads as They Meet to Plan Extended Term

Jim Coffis

Following last week’s Board of Supervisors unanimous agreement to give the group a 6 month extension, the 13 appointees on the Santa Cruz County Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee (C4) will meet on Tuesday to begin planning their future.  The Committee will also expand their focus beyond cultivation to other facets of the business of medical cannabis in Santa Cruz County like processing, distribution, transport, testing and licensing.

The C4 had previously discussed completing recommendations regarding cultivation by March before addressing the wider range of issues that will need to be resolved before the County begins issuing licenses as early as June.

Before getting to their 2016 calendar however they will take up the draft ordinance they voted to support just days before it went before the BOS.

The C4 got their first look at the new draft ordinance, along with everyone else, on Thursday afternoon Dec 3rd.  After receiving a walk through of the major elements the group voted to withdraw their previously agreed upon recommendations in favor of the proposed Chapter 7.128.

Many of the C4 members expressed reservations about some of the elements and restrictions in the draft but were offered assurances that this was only a “foundation” or “framework” and will need lots of finishing work.  Chief Assistant County Counsel Jason Heath said he expects  “a substantial amount of time will be required to implement” the program.

Board of Supervisors Take Historic Action - Move From Ban to Licensing in Less Than 9 Months

With their unanimous vote, accepting the draft ordinance “in concept”,  the Board of Supervisors took the first step toward establishing a regulated commercial medical cannabis market in the County. The new ordinance creates a “Licensing Official” empowered to approve or deny applications and issue or revoke licenses.  The draft ordinance assumes applications for a 2016 license will be accepted beginning in June but no later than September 30th.

The program is to be funded by application and licensing fees.  Each license will be for one year only and a “provisional license” may be granted to existing cultivators while their application is considered.

Most of the restrictions in the current ordinance (7.126) were carried into the new chapter along with some new ones.  Two restrictions which the C4 was going to recommend be eliminated from the current (7.126) ordinance: the 99 plant count and the requirement of ties to local dispensaries were eliminated in the new draft but will remain in the current ordinance (7.126).

Saying that some level of consistency should be maintained during the transition to licensing, County Counsel wants the current ordinance to remain in place.

C4 Gives, Gets Lots of Love

After the presentation of the proposed draft ordinance the Board heard from Eric Olsen, the consultant hired by the County to facilitate the work of the C4.  He gave a powerpoint presentation describing the Committee’s work to date and their consensus building process.

He thanked the Board for creating the Committee and urged an extension to continue their work.

Committee member Shebreh Kalantari Johnson who represents the Community Prevention Partners (CPP) - a countywide coalition that is dedicated to promoting health and well being and enhancing youth and community safety through sustainable alcohol and drug prevention efforts - spoke next.

Johnson noted that the Committee “adopted a ‘perspectivist’ framework, that allowed us to move from our more narrow definitions of community to a broader and inclusive include patients, young people, neighbors, wildlife, natural environment, members of the industry, and more.”.

She said, “Our desire for the well being of each of these components, brings us together and inspires us to continue our work on behalf of the Board.”

“You have put your trust in us, to guide our community in developing realistic, safe, and efficient Cannabis regulations.  As we have discovered that each of us at C4 cares deeply about maintaining a healthy, thriving Santa Cruz County, and that our group is guided by values such as justice and compassion, your trust is well placed.”

She asked all the C4 members and staff to stand and be recognized, saying “We support County Counsel’s recommendations for an initial licensing scheme and we are confident that with more time we will deliver a comprehensive set of recommendations that are realistic, safe, efficient, and will benefit the entire community.”

Committee member D’Angelo Carmine “Cricket” Roberto spoke next.  He represents the group Responsible Cultivation Santa Cruz (RCSC) one of five cannabis business sector organizations with seats on the Committee.  

He also spoke about the shared vision among the C4: “We all believe that protecting our youth, our neighborhoods, and our environment are as equally important as providing an adequate supply of medical cannabis to qualified patients.”

Saying that the C4 has been  “a great catalyst for the community at large to discuss the challenges our county faces”  Roberto dismissed what he said was  “the perceived threat of corporations flooding into Santa Cruz buying land to set up shop (as) unrealistic to their bottom line. Quality over quantity should be how we remain distinct.”

He said good regulations would establish the appropriate limits on any potential abuses.

Both Johnson and Roberto spoke about the value and importance of trust, and Roberto said that  
“Trust is not a one way street but rather an intersection where the potential for disaster exists along with the potential for an elegant display of cooperation.”

He added, “Not one point of view is more or less important than the other – they must co-exist. Every voice in this conversation is valuable.”

He ended by inviting the County Counsel and the Supervisors to join with the C4 “to create a stable and sustainable example of a functioning community where our shared values are revered throughout the state of California and beyond.”

Over two dozen members of the public, including other members of the C4, then shared their support or concerns before Supervisor Zach Friend offered a motion to accept the recommendations, extend the term of the C4 through June and approve the draft ordinance in concept.

Friend said that we are at a “significant time of opportunity to establish a collective good”  He praised the work of the C4 as a great example of community participation.

Supervisor John Leopold seconded the motion and also heaped praise on the C4 for taking up the issue after the Board’s “failed attempt” to reach consensus.

Supervisor Bruce McPherson indicated his support for the draft ordinance saying it provided both “local control and flexibility”.

Supervisor Ryan Coonerty also expressed his gratitude for the work of the C4 but cautioned them saying “Be careful when politicians praise your work.  It usually means they expect a lot more.”  

Coonerty also mentioned he was glad to see the State had chosen to treat cannabis as an agricultural crop and that he was looking forward to recommendations on the other pieces of the supply chain.

After Board Chair Greg Caput joined the chorus of praise for the work of the C4, noting that he had heard from many complimenting individuals on the C4 and that he understood they had put in in excess of 100 hours working to date. He said this was not his number one priority but that he was prepared to “go along for now.”

He expressed concern for restrictions on the possession of firearms, saying that raised “second amendment issues” with him.

The vote was called and all five Supervisors voiced support.

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