Graeagle residents weigh in on cannabis

The Plumas County Cannabis Working Group held an open community forum at the Mohawk Community Resource Center on July 27 to discuss and opine on the hot topic of the moment — how the community feels about regulating the use and growth of cannabis or if the people wants cannabis grown at all.

Randy Wilson, Plumas County Planning Director, kicked off the event prepared with a slideshow and a hefty draft of the Plumas County Cannabis Ordinance in hand. He encouraged attendees to speak out on the topics provided.

The Cannabis Working Group is comprised of Kim Scott, District 1; Mat Fogarty, District 2; Michael James, District 3; Cindy Robinson, District 4; Debbie Thompson, District 5; with Plumas County Supervisor Kevin Goss as chairman and Supervisor Jeff Engel as vice chairman.

Support staff is comprised of Craig Settlemire, County counsel; Sheriff Greg Hagwood; Tim Gibson, agricultural commissioner; and Wilson.

Wilson opened with a warm welcome to all in attendance, with warnings to keep the dialogue civil, and a three-minute time limit for each comment.

He went on to explain that the working group had begun soliciting community input about the draft Cannabis Ordinance, since the group will revise the draft based upon public input.

“I know that some of you may not feel comfortable speaking in this open forum, but that’s okay, because we also expect quite a bit of written input as well,” Wilson said. “The input is vital as it drives changes in this ordinance.”

Wilson went on to explain that the draft would ultimately end up in front of the board of supervisors and that up until the last minute, changes could still be made to the ordinance.      “Changes to ordinances are always possible,” he stated.

Wilson explained that despite the board of supervisors’ ability to authorize the development of the ordinance, the board is in no way bound to approve it.

Wilson presented a slideshow to the packed room, which covered the basics of what the ordinance entails, including a large map available at countyofplumas.com, which lays out the zoning areas in Plumas County.

“Neighborhood compatibility issues really create a need for zoning codes,” Wilson mentioned.

Wilson delved into the complications of cultivating cannabis in Plumas County, explaining the difference between MCRSA, the medical use of cannabis, and Prop. 64, the recently passed proposition that allow adults over the age of 21 to choose to use recreational cannabis.

“Prop. 64 passed in Plumas County by 51 percent,” Wilson said. “It’s here. It’s now a matter of regulations.”

Wilson pointed out that the county has no jurisdiction in Portola, as it is an incorporated City, but Graeagle falls into the “town” category in unincorporated Plumas County.

There is to be no cultivation of cannabis in wetland areas, which can also be found on the county website utilizing the map portal.

Wilson discussed the objectives, which included effectively addressing neighborhood compatibility issues with cultivation and cannabis related activities, as well as creating a pathway for some private, illegal cultivations to become legal.

Opening the floor to public comment, Kevin Goss took over in his position as chairman, monitoring the clock as more than 27 individuals stood to express their opinions verbally, with the meeting being recorded for the public to view on the county website.

Many declined to give names, but the first individual to speak, a Forest Service employee, spoke eloquently about the fact that he felt that people that decide to cultivate in the area should have to prove that they have lived in the area for “x amount of time.”

“I don’t think we should let outsiders come here to abuse the resources of our area,” the man stated. “The people growing should be from this area, and the monies that may result should be kept in the community.”

Another individual stated that he was “for the state regulations,” expressing his interest in seeing the county mirror whatever course of action that the state of California takes, as long as the taxes on cultivation would benefit local schools, senior citizens and public safety measures.

Some concerns were raised about the value of properties depreciating due to potential neighbors growing cannabis, and another man spoke about how Calaveras County was experiencing a state of flux in the ever-evolving cannabis industry, due to the “out-of-towners that came in, bought land and pushed the locals out.”

Another man spoke to his wish to see kids stay in Plumas County, saying, “If there were more job opportunities for our young people, maybe they wouldn’t be moving away, taking their talents to L.A. or somewhere else when we could keep them in-county. We should be looking to export, not import.”

Harry Rogers, president of the Plumas County Growers Coalition, commented about the fact that cannabis is now recognized as a heavily regulated agricultural commodity.

“It’s just a plant, and there’s nothing to be afraid of,” Rogers stated emphatically. “Yes, there may be an odor associated with cannabis, but it’s no different than the odors that accompany other crops such as garlic or even raising cattle.”

The vast majority of comments reflected the opinion that aside from technicalities in taxation and zoning, cannabis should be kept local in Plumas County with local regulations and effective ways to get tax dollars back into the County.

One man succinctly put it this way, “We are now deciding on a local level if we want to put our heads in the sand or if we want to really embrace this opportunity from the state.”

More meetings are on deck to continue the conversation, with a meeting in Portola at the Memorial Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 2, to be followed by another meeting on Aug. 17 in the Mineral Building at the Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds in Quincy.

All meetings are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. For further information, contact Rebecca Herrin, Plumas County Planning and Building Services, at [email protected] or by phone at 283-6213.

Those wishing to view video recordings of meetings that have taken place in the county may find them along with maps and the draft cannabis ordinance online at countyofplumas.com.