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County hands cannabis enforcement over to sheriff’s office

The Plumas County moratorium on cannabis growth will be enforced by the Sheriff’s Office. The decision was made following a workshop conducted by the board of supervisors Feb. 6.

The moratorium, which was passed in November 2017, has glided along unenforced for the past few months due to the absence of a code enforcement officer in the county.

After the board’s decision, the cannabis moratorium does not need a code enforcement officer for enforcement, the county will use a peace officer of another kind.

“We are at a point now where the credibility of the moratorium calls for the enforcement of the moratorium,” said Sherriff Greg Hagwood at the meeting. “Collectively we need to come together to enforce this.”

“To me this makes perfect sense, because the (sheriff’s office) has people who are trained to deal with cannabis,” said District 3 Supervisor Sherrie Thrall.

Enforcement of the cannabis moratorium follows administrative code processes, which are different than the penal code process the sheriff’s department is used to adhering to. Hagwood said it would be an adjustment for his officers, but one he was confident they could do.

“There is a prescribed statutory process,” he said. “I have nothing but confidence that we can navigate the system well.”

The administrative process of enforcing the moratorium includes citations, fines of up to $1,000 a day, and eventually abatement of the cannabis plants if the violator does not cooperate. During the meeting, members of the public had questions relating to the criminality of the violators and if the sheriff would be making arrests because of the cannabis moratorium.

The short answer was “no,” because it is a different type of code enforcement. However, he stated that it is possible to find arrest-able offenses just by being present at the property.

“In this process there is a sequence of events that has to happen in a measure of time, and that is the process that we will be working with,” said Hagwood. “It will be very different from the criminal justice system.”

Hagwood requested that the county look into expediting the processes that are entailed in administrative code enforcement of the cannabis moratorium. It can take months to enforce the moratorium as the timeframes stand now. Which means growers could complete their harvest and sell their product before they are forced to abate.

“Instead of taking months or even a year to do, [expediting] this could take a 45- to 60-day time period,” said County Counsel Craig Settlemire, “So that would remove the profit benefit of avoiding compliance with the ordinance.”

“I can tell you in my part of the county I have some people who would gladly sign a $1,000 check a day to get them through harvest season,” said District 1 Supervisor Michael Sanchez. “So that might not be a deterrent at all … we need to move this thing along or else we are going to get into the grow season.”

The board tasked staff with exploring ways to expedite the necessary steps in order to begin the enforcement process as soon as possible.

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