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.

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