It’s like a script for a western — big-money out-of-county opportunists pitted against a small-town sheriff and an overwhelmed agricultural commissioner. And in the middle are several landowners, a board of supervisors, and a group of concerned citizens.
Big trouble in little Plumas started when some city slickers rolled into town, plopped a bag of gold on the table and offered Sierra Valley landowners serious money to lease lots of land to grow lots of hemp.
According to the sheriff, trees were felled, roads graded and graveled, plumbing and electrical installed, private security guards armed, and raw sewage pumped into stink holes and out into open land. No permits, no permission, no can do.
Our sheriff says the visiting hemp-growing outfit is thumbing their noses at Plumas by flaunting county permits and processes, lying about nonexistent contracts with “established agricultural research institutes,” and employing unlicensed armed security guards.
He also says our agricultural commissioner got run off by these guards when he tried to check on things. If things are as bad as they say, this could turn into the Great Plumas Hemp Heist.
How will our hero stop these alleged rule-flaunting flatlanders? With a temporary hemp moratorium. Makes sense, right? The sheriff says this group is breaking all the rules, and he and his deputies have proof.
He presents his case to our Board of Supervisors with pictures and video evidence. The landowners raise Cain and accuse of him of sensationalizing things. Now, it’s up to the supervisors. They can still save the day with a 4–1 yes–no vote on the temporary moratorium. They fail to do so 3-2.
Confusion ensues. Social media comments run wild. The whole point of the brouhaha is missed in a mess of emotion and misinformation. Please allow me to clear things up.
The temporary moratorium was NOT an attack on industrial hemp growing or on the plant. It was an attempt to put a temporary kibosh on cultivation, so the county could gain time set up a viable and enforceable regulation structure.
Granted, this should have been done before the growing season. It was not.
This is what happened at the BOS meeting: The sheriff presented his evidence and urged the BOS to pass the moratorium. The landowners disputed his evidence and urged them not to. This is a he said-he said situation. Stalemate. Now, let’s try to sift some facts.
The sheriff says no one from the hemp-growing outfit pulled a permit to chop trees, add plumbing and electrical, or pipe sewage. County department heads all concur that this ball was dropped.
Did armed guards escort the agricultural commissioner off the property? The sheriff says it happened. Maybe it did, but we can’t know for sure. This much seems clear: Not one hemp lawyer provided a bona fide and signed “established agricultural research institute” contract to counter the sheriff’s claim that they do not have one and are therefore subject to county oversight. Instead, one very passionate lawyer threatened to sue the county, if the BOS adopted the temporary moratorium.
It also seems clear that several of the landowners are accustomed to getting their way. And they may have a right to do so in this case. However, their ability to shoulder their way past the facts and elicit two no votes from the BOS doesn’t mean they’re right and the sheriff and county are wrong.
Remember — nothing anyone said shoots down the charge that one of the hemp outfits is or was operating in violation of permit processes and without a contractual partnership with a research institute.
The allegations are more than enough reason to adopt a temporary moratorium. The reason it wasn’t may be because two of our supervisors were swayed by the passionate pleas of invested landowners.
And now all that stands in the way of alleged industrial hemp growers cultivating recreational THC-level cannabis is one solitary, overworked, stretched way-too-thin ag commissioner and a hamstrung sheriff.
Instead of staving off a Wild West Gold Rush free-for-all, as a county, we’re waving in more hemp hopefuls with more inaction, more kicking the can down the road, and more controversy.
We’ve sent this signal to opportunists: Come to Plumas to grow your hemp. Please don’t grow hemp’s twin sister. But if you do, we won’t stop you because right now we can’t.
Now, as bad as things look, our supervisors can still fix another related issue. On June 20 at 10 a.m. in the planning building at 555 Main Street in Quincy, there’s this little public hearing over a Planning Commission cannabis ordinance draft.
In this ordinance draft, there’s a provision that allows retail cannabis sales licensing in our county — this flies in the face of the Measure B vote mandate in which, by a nearly two-thirds majority, ballot voters rejected all forms of commercial cannabis — including retail sales.
Dear supervisors, please respect the Measure B vote and mandate and direct the Planning Commission to remove the retail sales licensing provision in their ordinance draft. Why? Because for every one Plumas resident who tells you he or she wants retail sales, three Plumas residents will tell you they don’t want it.
Majority rules. It’s called democracy. And respecting the will of the majority is what smart and honest politicians (and supervisors) do.
Fellow residents: Please come to the June 20 public hearing. Make your Measure B no vote count by reminding Planning Commission appointees and our supervisors to respect the no on B vote. Email your supervisor. Their email addresses are at plumasgrow.com.
It’s not too late to help the good guys win in our little Plumas western.