On 06-22-2021 the BoS directed Staff to come back with an ordinance to cap expansion in the new ordinance to the following:
Expansion of up to 2 acres, plants in the ground no earlier than 2023. Then there will be two public hearings to determine the success of the program, based on as yet undefined benchmarks, but potentially including some sort of watershed impact.
If it is determined that expansion can occur based on the meetings and conditions being met, expansion of up to 5 acres could begin by Jan 2026.
The next level of expanded cultivation would max out at 10 Acres no earlier than 2029 after two more public meetings, only if benchmarks are met. The Board indicated that 10 acres would be the maximum allowable cultivation. They did not determine if that is exclusively for Outdoor cultivation, or total aggregated cultivation of all license types.
There was also an indication that permits will be able to be applied for during the drought, even if they will not be able to cultivate until the drought has ended. Kristin Nevedal commented that the Mendocino Cannabis Program is not expecting to accept any NEW cultivation applications until early 2022.
No direction was given to conduct an EIR.
The Board also passed an ordinance to enable restrictions on any new discretionary permit water use activity during the drought.
‼️ CALL TO ACTION ‼️ The California Budget Act of 2021: Department of Cannabis Control Trailer Bill passed by a vote of the Legislature on July 1st, 2021. However, the measure has not yet been signed into law by the Governor, and the Legislature is working on a clean up trailer bill expected to be before the Legislature on:
Thursday July 15th for a vote.
There are several critical amendments related to the provisional licensing program that are URGENTLY NEEDED to protect small independently owned and operated cannabis businesses in California.
‼️ HELP US GET LANGUAGE ADDED TO THE BILL TO PROTECT PROVISIONAL LICENSES IN THE EVENT THAT CEQA or LSA PROGRESS IS STALLED DUE TO NO FAULT OF AN OPERATOR ‼️
Below is a link to MCA’s recommendations that were submitted to the BoS for their consideration prior to the 6/22 meeting at which they will vote on the adoption of the new Commercial Cannabis Activities Ordinance.
In line with our past advocacy, we recommend the adoption of the unanimous recommendations of the Planning Commission for limited expansion, and to conduct an EIR for any expansion beyond that. Our memo explains why we believe this is the best approach to moving forward in a way that addresses all stakeholder concerns to the benefit of existing operators, the environment, future applicants and Mendocino County as a whole.
MCA is working with the Mendocino County Department of Agriculture to gather useful cannabis crop data to include as an addition to the 2020 Mendocino County Crop Report.
This is an historic step toward recognition of cannabis as agriculture in Mendocino County. Crop Reports track the production and sales of agricultural commodities such as livestock, fruits & vegetables, timber etc. You can view reports from as far back as 1985 on the County website at https://www.mendocinocounty.org/government/agriculture
The State of California lets Counties include a cannabis addendum to their crop reports, and MCA has advocated that Mendocino take this opportunity to illustrate the important role that licensed cannabis cultivation plays locally. There have not been many cannabis addenda created statewide, so we sincerely appreciate that the County has chosen to adopt this suggestion, and as such we are working with them to collect the data requested by the Ag Department. Once collected, we will submit the aggregated data WITHOUT ANY CONTACT INFORMATION for inclusion as part of the 2020 Crop Report. Individual contact, cannabis crop and sales information will remain strictly confidential.
We would appreciate you completing this survey and returning it to us no later than June 25,2021. Your response is desired even if you may have harvested only a small amount or no cannabis this past season. It is understood that often times cannabis that was harvested in one year is sold in the following year. When filling out the survey PLEASE TOTAL ALL ACTIVITIES BETWEEN JAN 1 – DEC 31 2020 ONLY for all categories!
This survey is ONLY for County authorized and State Licensed cannabis cultivators.
In order to enact the ordinance in time for the local CEQA jurisdiction exemption, the Board passed an ordinance that was not in line with the Planning Commission recommendations to limit cultivation to 10% or 2 acres, whichever is less. The latter part of the sentence (or 2 acres, whichever is less) was removed from the ordinance, keeping the 10% allowance. Item 3a was adopted on a 4 – 1 vote with Supervisor Haschak dissenting.
However, because of overwhelming comments from the public, in a separate action, the Board directed staff to come back to the Board with suggested amendments to the CCAO later this summer, or as soon as possible, where the Board would consider a phased-in approach to expansion – possibly starting with a 2-acre cap. Such a phased-in approach could be directed by the Board to undergo an analysis of impact (whether the amendment would need an Initial Study or EIR if amendments were enacted) before going to the Planning Commission and then returning to the Board for possible enactment.
The Board also voted to strike a protection for existing Phase 1 & 2 cultivators from being able to phase out their existing use of water from haulers in the CCAO even if the use is from a lawful source. This would result in those cultivators, regardless of the lawful use and source of water, not being able to utilize any water trucking as part of a new land use based discretionary permit. The Board did choose to align energy requirements with the existing state rules.
The Board decided to address other outstanding issues in the future as amendments to the ordinance, such as whether and what type of emergencies would allow any cultivator to temporarily use lawfully sourced water from a hauler on a temporary basis, and whether to impose more restrictions such as striking all Mixed Light activities except in Industrial zoning. It was very clear that but for the July 1st deadline, the Board would have more closely considered and evaluated changes that are now being punted to later amendments, creating uncertainty regarding the actual specifics of the new permitting requirements.
Recommendations that had been made, both by MCA and by the Planning Commission to further support Phase 1 and 2 operators in transitioning to this new ordinance, while seemingly supported in discussion and not opposed by Staff, were not included directly in the ordinance. These items were a) explicit priority for incoming applications from existing operators transitioning to the new ordinance, b) language directing the creation of a mechanism to enable existing operators to continue their operations while in the application process, and c) language providing a streamlined application process from Phase 1/2 to the new ordinance. We will continue advocating for their inclusion.
Additional items of note:
The amended ordinance includes: *Adding a definition to BP code, section 8000: “Agricultural Activity” means the cultivation and tillage of the soil, dairying, the production, cultivation, growing and harvesting of any agricultural commodity (including cannabis), the raising of livestock our poultry, and any practices performed by a farmer or on a farm as incident to or in conjunction with those farming operations including preparation of the products for market”.
*Adding to the definition of prior crop history: “All cultivation sites in the Rangeland zoning district shall be located within the footprint of a site that has been previously tilled and can show evidence of agricultural activity at any time between the dates of Jan. 1, 200 and Jan 1, 2016”.
*Deleting – Lighting: Medium indoor and Medium Mixed light Cultivation sites shall use renewable energy sources for hearing, cooling and energy light loads. – will instead align with State energy regulations
Lighting shall (changed from ‘should’) not leave mixed light and indoor cultivation structures. Security lighting shall be shielded and down cast”.
Cultivation structures will be sited and designed to avoid or minimize visual impacts from roads (changed from ‘public rights of way’).
“The location and operation of the cannabis cultivation site will, to the maximum extent feasible, avoid or minimize its impact on environmentally sensitive areas including hillsides exceeding fifteen (15) percent, oak woodland, and timber resources”. – will come back to discuss what kinds of situations would allow for removal and mitigation of diseased or dangerous trees
*Adding: “The proposed cultivation site is located on a site that has been previously tilled and has evidence of agricultural activity at any time between the dates of January 1, 200, and January 1, 2016”.
*Appendix A changes: “Parcels in the AG or RL zoning district that have a minimum parcel size of ten (10) acres or larger may cultivate up to 10% of the parcel area with the issuance of a Major Use permit”.
The BoS Directed staff to send the items that remain for consideration (expansion Cap, emergency definition for when water delivery would be permissible, additionally restricting mixed light, etc.) to the Planning Commission to study and recommend changes before sending back to the BoS
The Planning Commission will need at least 45 days to review and make recommendations and conduct environmental analysis based on what the Board proposes, and come back after that – a process of likely 3 months, as calendars are already booked through July, 2021.
The CCAO will come back to the BoS, who will vote on final adoption to Chapter 22.18 on June 22. The conversation regarding amendments mentioned will come back around August for discussion and possible action.
The following motion was made: Mendocino Cannabis Program Manager work w/ Tax collector and PBS to identify opportunities to bring fairness and parity with other counties and shift the burden of cannabis cultivation taxation to larger farms should they materials, and come back with ideas to provide tax relief for the drought to encourage cultivators to reduce size during low water conditions.
There has been a great deal of public conversation around this proposed ordinance, and voices on the extreme ends of the issue have so far generated the most attention. MCA as an organization strives to support our members by developing practical solutions to the complex issues that face us all. We understand the importance of engaging with all relevant stakeholders and creating policy recommendations that both reflect our values and get us as close as practically possible to our goals, understanding the complex environment of competing interests throughout the county.
It is with these considerations in mind that we have developed a position designed to encourage compromise among all of those who are engaged in this county-wide conversation. We understand that to some this position will go too far, and to some this position will not go far enough. The nature of compromise, both as a trade association representing the full spectrum of cannabis businesses in Mendocino county, and in public policy, often means that no one gets exactly what they want, but hopefully everyone gets something they can live with. In hopes of helping to bring together our fractured community, we believe our recommendations create a compromise that gives all stakeholders enough of what is important to them to come together and move our community forward.
Additionally, there are two letters that have been submitted to the BoS that warrant your review. The first is a letter from local Attorney Hannah Nelson (who we are also proud to count as our Senior Policy Advisor), outlining the reasons why the CCAO discretionary use permit process is essential to protect as many existing Phase 1 and 2 operators as possible. The second is letter from MCA’s land use attorney Peter Kiel supporting Hannah’s memo. As many of you may have heard, there is talk about a referendum to nullify the entire ordinance should it pass. If you’ve read our memo, you know we believe this referendum is a danger to existing operators, and these letters reinforce that consideration.
CLICK HEREto view our memos and the letters from Hannah Nelson and Peter Kiel.
CLICK HERE to review the materials for the meeting, including the Planning Commissions recommendations.
We urge you to write to the Board of Supervisors at email@example.com to let them know you support the MCA compromise position for limited expansion, plus an EIR for additional expansion, in an effort to bridge the gaps in our community and allow us all to move forward.
CLICK HERE if you would like to sign up to make a comment during the BoS meeting tomorrow.