In advance of the upcoming election, MCA has communicated with each of the candidates for the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors with questions about their views on cannabis in Mendocino County. The questions we presented were voted on by our membership as being the most important to them as we go into this election. We have asked each candidate five questions to gain insight on their perspectives. We are sharing the responses we have received below for your consideration.
JK: Jon Kennedy
MM: Maureen Mulheren
GM: Glenn McGourty
MR: Mari Rodin was unable to answer the questions but provided a statement which we have included below in closing statements.
1. What is your vision for the future of cannabis in Mendocino County?
JK: Perhaps my answers below will help explain this.
MM: It might sound cliche but I would love to see a future in Mendocino County where cannabis cultivators and businesses are treated equally. Having been born and raised in Mendocino County it has always bothered me to see the divisiveness. To now be in a leadership position my goal has been to make sure cannabis businesses are treated just as any other legal and regulated business.
GM: Mendocino County should be a leader in legal, environmentally-sound, and socially responsible cannabis production. This means a functioning permitting program, clear zoning, and an end to crime resulting from people looking to exploit the cannabis black market.
2. How will you work to ensure that the cannabis community in Mendocino County is set up to succeed in the state, national and global markets?
JK: It is not the job of County Supervisor to guarantee success for any private industry, but it’s also not the job of local government to make it more difficult for one industry over another in respect to licensing, permitting and enforcement. The private sector industry of cannabis can succeed if simply treated fairly.
MM: Our current cannabis ordinance has failed our community on many levels. There are many paths being suggested as a way to move cannabis forward, I don’t know what the ordinance is going to look like by January. My thoughts on the most recent board proposal is to focus on getting the files organized, online and let the applicants know exactly what if anything they are missing, engage a CDFW biologist to deal with State regs ASAP to help current applicants, work with MCA to roll out the equity program to support legacy cultivators and then we need to get “the rest” of the cultivators in the permitting process. I do not blame those that sat back and watched before jumping in, they watched the system fail. We need to make this as easy as possible and support the industry.
GM: Mendocino County urgently needs to (1) finish processing the permits of the legacy cultivators who took an act of trust in County Government by joining the permitting process (2) fix the permitting process going forward so that it is workable solution to ensuring a legal, economically, environmentally, and socially viable cannabis industry in Mendocino County.
3. Do you think the county should play a role in advocating for the needs of local cannabis businesses at the state and national level? If so, how do you plan to do that? If not, why not?
JK: If anything, local government can advocate to legalize cannabis at the federal level. Legalizing cannabis at the local and state level, without legalizing it at the federal level, seems to be very contradictory. Being able to simply make banking practices the same as any other business should stimulate the economy through consumer and residential financing. It’s quite possible the criminal element that’s drawn to piles of cash will be reduced as well.
MM: Yes, I am the City of Ukiah representative for the League of California Cities. But not only that the Past-President of our Division and on State wide committees. The County has a sister organization the California State Association of Counties. I would love to take over that position as well as leverage other regional partnerships. As well as on the Rural County Representatives of California Board. You can read more about my endorsements here: https://www.mo4mendo.com/endorsements
GM: Yes. I would like to see the state allow for special small producer’s licenses like they do for vineyards and wine makers as well as changes to existing laws regarding agricultural coops. This could allow good actors in Mendocino County’s traditional market to enter the proposition 64 marketplace with lower cost and regulatory burden.
4. Should cannabis be defined as an Agricultural crop and product for all purposes so that the same rules apply to cannabis as does other types of agriculture for purposes of land-uses, Williamson Act, building permits, and all other rules? Should there be special rules pursuant to a cannabis permit or land use permit involving cannabis that are different from rules for non-cannabis agriculture permits or projects?
JK: I believe cannabis needs to be legalized at the federal level before it should be considered an agricultural crop, mainly because we’re still teetering between conflicting rules and enforcement policies because of the contradiction between local / state government and federal. I also believe that if local government didn’t literally confiscate revenues from the cannabis industry that stretches way beyond cost recovery, receiving tax break incentives like those associated with the Williamson Act may not be that important of a topic to discuss. For the most part, I don’t think so, but because I’ve personally never engaged in the business of cannabis, nor assisted anyone through the process of licensing and permitting, and have never had to be part of a policymaking / legislative body where cannabis is so prolific, there may be areas I’m missing. I believe the use of water needs to be carefully contemplated, and it may very well be.
MM: Yes and no. Cannabis is an agricultural crop and should be regulated as such. At the end of the day I believe that the State has put in sufficient regulations and our businesses can follow those regulations. If there is something that isn’t working from the State then I would want to look at that specifically.
GM: In the case of small producers, cannabis should be treated as an agricultural crop with zoning that makes clear that agricultural production for sales should not take place in denser urban and semi-urban neighborhoods for any crop or commodity.
5. What is your position regarding allocation of Staff time for concurrent development of a land use process at the same time as the work to process the existing applications? Specifically, how would you deal with the allocation of the time, in relation to other work assigned to these units and in relation to the various cannabis- related work that comes up or may come up for each department/sub-unit, needed for:
- County Counsel (development of new ordinance; modifications of existing ordinance that had already been voted on but not yet presented in draft ordinance change form; modifications of existing ordinance that would not jeopardize the current SSHR and Appendix G processes recently approved but that would help streamline the ordinance further and that have not yet been approved by BoS).
- Cannabis Program Staff (all of the above plus processing current applications, dealing with Equity Program implementation and oversight, implementation of SSHR and Appendix G programs which currently constitute CEQA review necessary for CDFA, renewals, removals, accepting updates, etc.)
- Planning Staff (development of land use based system with discretionary review permits, involvement in Appendix G review and certification, involvement in any other cannabis-related project work, including any list of work requested by Cannabis Program)
- Building Permitting Staff (review and approval of all building permits for cannabis- related projects, expected to increase with the updating of local diagrams during the site-specific CEQA review under the pilot SSHR and Appendix G process).
JK: I’m going to address these bullet points below, collectively. I’m going to assume the intent of pointing out these topics is to possibly illustrate the absurdity in the time being spent on these items when the county hasn’t even managed to handle the basics. If I’m elected, I’ll take the time to look into each of these rather specific concerns, but until then, I won’t take the extra time to look specifically into them. I just don’t have that kind of time available. Bottom line, before the county attempts to “improve” or expand its cannabis policies, it needs to handle the basics first. We can’t master the magnificent until we rule the routine. Additionally, I think the county and the state has mistakenly tried to create its own financial industry on the backs of another (cannabis). I believe the only fees / taxes that should be collected are those that are cost recovery related. “Cost Recovery” can come with many opinions, but generally speaking, local government needs to do its part in making our communities safe, clean, healthy, along with our environment. Whatever it takes to do this (financially) as it relates to the consequences and benefits of the cannabis industry, should be our only budgeting motivation.
- I think County Counsel spends a lot of time on “legal ego” issues and not as much needed on really moving forward policies that are proactive for the future of Mendocino County.
- I don’t think the County has enough staff to work on all of these issues and should do outreach to find a way to deal with the IT to get the applications online, perhaps and RFP for the equity program implementation and we definitely need to outsource CEQA and CDFA.
- I think planning staff can handle this task I just hope that politics get in the way. That’s my concern.
- This also may need to be outsourced so it can be taken care of more quickly.
GM: Cannabis is obviously a complex and important issue. While I’ve spent considerable time following the BOS present discussions and am familiar with many of the open questions and public statements, I have not had an opportunity to meet with all of the stakeholders (MCA included). In any issue, cannabis included, I feel it is essential to hear from the various affected groups before offering specific policy. .
6. Closing statements:
MM: Thanks for the opportunity to answer your questions. I look forward to hearing from you. For more information about my platform please visit my website at https://www.mo4mendo.com/vision
MR: I apologize that I’m unable to provide in depth answers to these important questions. Last week I learned that I have cancer. I do not know what the future holds. But for the time being—through Election Day—I must focus all of my energy on my treatment and recovery. Please know that I am committed to finding a suitable path forward for licensed cannabis operators in Mendocino County. If I am elected, MCA will of course have an open door to discuss any and all issues facing cannabis operators in Mendocino County.