Sends cannabis issue to voters
Cannabis issues filled the agenda at a special Plumas County Board of Supervisors meeting May 31. The board addressed items concerning the moratorium enforcement, the cannabis ballot measure, and the county cannabis draft ordinance.
Cannabis moratorium ordinance approved
The board heard the final reading of the cannabis cultivation enforcement ordinance and approved the ordinance with a unanimous vote. Though members of the public spoke against the ordinance, calling it “draconian” and “biased,” the board members cited the need for the enforcement of the cannabis moratorium in the county.
“The main criticism that we have all had is that we did not give the sheriff the teeth to enforce the moratorium when we gave him the moratorium enforcement,” said District 3 Supervisor Sherrie Thrall. “I look at this as giving him the tools that he needs.”
The county gave the sheriff’s office the task of enforcing the cannabis moratorium in February, and since then, the county has been working on an ordinance to quicken the pace of enforcement and abatement measures for illegal cannabis cultivators.
The sheriff’s office will be conducting the enforcement of the ordinance as an administrative or civil code process. This will entail citations, fines and even liens on properties if the illegal cannabis grow is not abated.
“We have the moratorium. We voted on it, and we need to enforce this,” said District 1 Supervisor Michael Sanchez.
Department heads weigh in on cannabis initiative
The board received an extensive report from 13 county department heads concerning the impact that the Medicinal and Adult Use of Cannabis Ordinance would have on the county, if implemented.
The ordinance, known as MAUCO, is a 47-page document that outlines proposed regulations for commercial cannabis in the county. The document was created by members of the Keep Plumas Green coalition and aims to allow limited commercial growth in the county with special consideration for priority residents.
The initiative proposes that commercial cannabis growers would have to apply for a growing license, the cost of which can vary from $1,000 to $10,000. It establishes the zones in which the activity is allowed, set back requirements from schools and property lines, and indoor grow regulations. It also imposes an initial 2 percent tax rate on the grower’s net profits to be given to the county.
The initiative process allows for any citizen to get their issues on the ballot, as long as they follow the correct processes. After MAUCO received the appropriate amount of voter signatures, the board reviewed the document at the beginning of May.
At that meeting, the board could have adopted the ordinance immediately, submitted it to the voters in the next election or ordered a report, due in 30 days, from department heads concerning the potential impact the ordinance might have on county departments. The board was and is prohibited from making any alterations to the ordinance, no matter what option they chose.
The board opted to receive reports from department heads on the impact the initiative would have on the county.
Planning Director Randy Wilson compiled the report, which said if the initiative passed, there would have to be significant restructuring at the county level to implement the ordinance.
The most significant impact would be the establishment of an entirely new licensing function within the County Clerk-Recorder’s Office. The county would also have to purchase and establish new licensing and tracking software for the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office and the Auditor-Controller’s Office.
The report says the effects on the general fund are unknown at this time “due to the uncertainty of the actual costs to various County Offices and Departments, and the lack of certainty of revenue from the proposed general tax.”
The 2 percent tax raised criticism from the county auditor-controller’s office.
“This initiative does not provide guidance for the calculation of net revenue less expenses,” Auditor-Controller Roberta Allen wrote. “It is the opinion of the Auditor-Controller that the income from the 2 percent fee will be negligible.”
“Well, being in business as long as I have, the end result you want come tax time is your net profit being zero,” said District 5 Supervisor Jeff Engel. “Two percent of zero is zero.”
“It is really difficult to be in cannabis, so in order to get to a level of being state regulated we are under an eagle’s eye,” said MAUCO proponent and co-author Chelsea Bunch during public comment. “It is highly scrutinized. There is really no way for us to jip the system … We are not able to write off our soil, we are not able to write of our tractors … We get taxed very heavily.”
The board voted to send the initiative to the voters. The initiative will be on the ballot for the Nov. 6 election. Parties interested in reading the department heads’ reports can visit plumascounty.us under the Board of Supervisor tab.
County Draft Ordinance process paused
The board also voted to pause the development of a county cannabis ordinance until the results from the Nov. 6 election are known. The county has been drafting its own cannabis ordinance for almost two years. Currently, the draft ordinance is waiting for review by the Planning Commission.
Supervisor Thrall said the cannabis issue has taken up the majority of the planning department’s time over the past two years, and the department is falling behind on important general plan issues as a result.
“I don’t see any point of them taking additional time to come up with an ordinance that may or may not have any validity. If the initiative passes the [county draft] ordinance will be in the garbage can and all those man hours will be lost,” said Thrall. “If it doesn’t pass, then we still have the moratorium in place that will give [the Planning Commission] time to finish up an ordinance.”
“With the initiative on the ballot, I wouldn’t want to waste any time until we know the results,” said Engel.
The board voted unanimously to postpone the development on the draft to allow the planning commission to work on other issues.