A packed room at the Plumas County Board of Supervisors meeting in Quincy on Sept. 5 heard the strong opinions of board members and Plumas County citizens, many of them calling for stricter commercial growing regulations in the final Cannabis Ordinance.
Chairman of the board Lori Simpson started a discussion item with a stern warning to all in attendance.
“This room is going to be civil.” Simpson said. “If you don’t like what another person said, keep your comments to yourself or you are going to be out, and I am not messing around.”
The room was silent despite the many people standing, sitting cross-legged or overflowing out of the room.
Planning Director Randy Wilson reviewed the status of the ordinance process.
The Cannabis Working Group is made up of two supervisors, Kevin Goss and Jeff Engel, and five community members representing each of the five districts. The representatives were selected through an open application process.
“It was open for everybody to apply and I wanted balance,” Simpson said. “A lot of the people who applied were the ones that work in this industry. … There is some idea that we appointed a pro-marijuana group, and that is not the truth. If we had some other people on the opposite [side apply] I would have appointed them.”
The committee met over the past eight months and drafted the ordinance, initiated community forums and received feedback on the draft ordinance. Wilson said the next step was to take in the information received from the public forums and apply it to the draft.
Though the Board of Supervisors won’t vote on the draft until it has been finalized by the planning department, Supervisor Michael Sanchez requested discussion of the draft be on the agenda in response to protests from his constituents in Eastern Plumas County concerning its contents. Each board member, over the course of the discussion, also said their constituents expressed concerns about the document.
“I received an overwhelming plea from my constituents to discontinue, ban or at a minimum place a moratorium on cultivation,” Sanchez read in a statement at the board meeting. “The current trend is an aggressive intent to expand cultivation in hopes or assumptions that the ordinance will be approved by the Board of Supervisors.”
Supervisor Lori Simpson had a stern message for Plumas county citizens intent on expanding their grows too early, assuming the draft ordinance would allow their increased activity.
“It is disrespectful of the people who have gone out and started big operations,” Simpson said. “It is a blatant disregard of the ordinance process.”
Sanchez requested an immediate moratorium on cultivation to avoid a “gold-rush” situation, where growers see the potential freedom in the draft ordinance and flock to the county. A moratorium would prevent any expansion of existing grow sites and any purchases of new sites until the ordinance is in place.
During the public comment period, the room was split between those who favored the direction the draft was going and those who did not. Overall, the main complaint for those against the draft was the relaxed regulations on commercial cannabis.
“The draft suggests that money is what matters and only money,” said Joseph Munoz, a community member against the growth of commercial cannabis. “What about community?”
Some of the commenters called for a dissolution of the working group and for the Board of Supervisors to tackle the ordinance directly.
“I would like to at least give the working group the professional courtesy of letting them go at least a few more meetings,” said Supervisor Sherrie Thrall. “I am really pleased that this is the first time people who are against cannabis in some way or another have started to voice their opinion. … I need to hear all of that.”
The board agreed to allow the working group to meet two more times and then present the draft ordinance for discussion at the Tuesday, Oct. 3 Board of Supervisors meeting.
Simpson ended the discussion by encouraging community members to attend the Cannabis Working Group meetings the first and third Thursday of the month, but a special meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 14, at 10 a.m. in the courthouse.