The cannabis issue filled the board room again at the Plumas County Board of Supervisors meeting May 1 as people on both sides of the issue poured in to express their opinion over the Medicinal and Adult Use of Cannabis Ordinance.
The MAUCO initiative is a 46-page document that outlines the proposed regulations for commercial cannabis in the county. The initiative has been circulating and gaining signatures throughout the county in order to get on the ballot for the November 2018 election. It was created by members of the Keep Plumas Green group, which aims to allow limited commercial growth in the county with special consideration for priority residents.
The initiative process allows for any citizen to get their issues on the ballot, as long as they follow the correct processes. Initiative proponents Chelsea Bunch and Kimberly Scott-Scales had 180 days to collect signatures of 10 percent of the total number of voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election, 711 in sum.
In two weeks, they collected 1,030 signatures, but after validity checks by the elections office, only 715 signatures where valid. However, the number was high enough to move on to the next step in the process, board review and approval.
When the initiative got to the board, the board could either adopt the ordinance immediately, submit it to the voters in the next election or order a report, due in 30 days, from department heads concerning the potential impact the ordinance might have on the county departments. The board is prohibited from making any alterations to the ordinance, no matter what option they choose.
It was clear at the board meeting that the board members had no interest in adopting the ordinance at that time.
“The way I see it, it is a circumvention of the moratorium that we have now,” said District 1 Supervisor Mike Sanchez. “I am vehemently opposed to approving this ordinance as written because I don’t like to approve things that are written based on assumptions … I see a lot of trips to the courthouse based on how this ordinance is written.”
“The voters are going to have to make a calculated decision, so I am asking the voters, don’t sit back,” said Sanchez.
“I am not even considering passing this today,” said Thrall.
The board discussed the option of requesting reports from the department heads to get more information on how the ordinance would affect the county. County Counsel Craig Settlemire said that if the board doesn’t approve the ordinance, only the voters can decide whether the initiative will stand or not. If the ordinance passes in the election, then the board can’t amend the ordinance, only the voters can, through another election.
Members of the public spoke during the meeting including MAUCO co-author Kimberly Scales-Scott. Scales-Scott addressed some of Sanchez’s concerns about the legality of the ordinance, including the priority resident stipulation.
“There is no shame to put your own house in order before tending to the houses of others, and I have no shame in demanding it,” Scales-Scott said.
Many public commenters asked for a lift of the current moratorium on cannabis. Others expressed their opposition to the initiative saying the citizens do have the right to grow in the state, just not the right to grow commercially.
Ultimately, the board decided to request reports from department heads. The motion passed with a 3-1 vote. Supervisor Kevin Goss was absent from the meeting, and Sanchez voted against.
“I think sending it to the directors is not wise because it is going to take a lot of time,” said Sanchez. “I think what the voters ought to see is what is on the table. You get what you get, and if you like it, you like it.”
The board will meet again May 31 for a special meeting to hear the reports from the department heads.