Responsibilities of the MCA Policy Committee
The Policy Committee is the voting policy body of MCA. As such, it has full authority to take policy positions, draft and release memos, connect with officials, members and media. To fulfill this task, the Policy Committee:
– The Policy Committee is tasked with pursuing the objectives and priorities of the annual strategic plan
– Receives input on policy matters from membership via member calls, polling and surveys
– Receives information, research and recommendations from Policy Leadership Committee
– Discusses, deliberates and votes on MCA policy priorities and positions based on those inputs
– Discusses and schedules Membership Policy Meeting topics, presenters, and content in collaboration with MCA Executive Committee
Criteria for Committee Membership
The Policy Committee must include the following representation from the cannabis industry. Individual members can meet multiple criteria.
– A minimum of one licensee who holds a Cottage OR Specialty Cottage, Outdoor or ML Tier 1
– Outdoor Farmer
– ML 1 Farmer
– Indoor Farmer
– Expertise in Communications
– Experience in Mendocino County cannabis policy
– Experience in Committee Leadership
5-7 hours a week MINIMUM required:
up to 2 (quantity) 90 minute meetings per week,
up to 2 hours of reading/commenting/correspondence per week, potential for additional subcommittee work
MCA met with CDFA CalCannabis on Friday 2/5/2021 in collaboration with our state-level advocacy partner, Origins Council.
We confirmed CDFA’s intent to send notices to Mendocino County’s provisional license holders asking them to provide evidence that site-specific CEQA is underway. We inquired about how this would work and expressed concern for any potential discontinuity of provisional licenses as an unintended consequence of this process.
CDFA provided us with the following information and offered to meet with us again once the process and messaging had been further developed. We have offered to be a resource to CDFA in supporting this process and are committed to providing timely and accurate information to our members – as well as the County’s provisional license holders more broadly – about what to expect and how they can begin to prepare for this process.
In advance of the February 9 Board of Supervisors meeting, MCA has prepared two documents outlining a comprehensive list of proposals for both existing operators in Mendocino County, and the County’s Legislative Platform.
As a Trade organization representing the best interests of our Members and the community at large, we encourage you to review our recommendations, and if you agree, to share that agreement with the Board of Supervisors. Info on how to do that below!
Item 6a – Phase 1
Our recommendations for this item are specifically geared to maintaining operational status for existing operators, and enabling reduced county staff to use their time as efficiently as possible to manage the bottleneck of applicants already in the system.
Among other items, we propose discontinuing the 30 Day Notice program in favor of a more comprehensive approach that will better support operators as they get ready to identify their best path forward to Annual Licensure.
CLICK HERE to read the full memo.
Item 5i – Legislative Platform
Mendocino County has its own Lobbyist who advances the County’s agenda at the State level. MCA has proposed a slate of additions to support our local cannabis community to be added to the official Legislative Platform for 2021. The Board of Supervisors has previously expressed support for these suggestions, so we sincerely hope to see them incorporated in the next draft of the document.
CLICK HERE to read the full list of recommendations.
In addition to being the first Board of Supervisors meeting of the new year, Jan 5 is the first BoS meeting with two new Supervisors! Sending a big MCA welcome to Sup. Maureen Mulheren from District 2 and Sup. Glenn McGourty from District 1!
The Agenda for Jan 5 has several important cannabis items:
- 5H – County 2021 Legislative Platform
- 5J – Enforcement – Sheriff’s Office Staffing
- 6A – Board Priorities – Long Term Strategic Plan
- 6B – County Cannabis Program – CEQA Consultants
- 4O – Code Enforcement – Amended Procedures
MCA has been working tirelessly over the holiday to provide comprehensive input on each item. Click the item above to see each memo.
If you have any troubles viewing the files, please email email@example.com for support.
MCA Questions & Considerations
Prepared for the 12/16/2020 Cannabis Town Hall
MCA strongly believes that the county has an obligation to continue to pursue ALL potential pathways to Annual Licenses for Phase 1 operators. We disagree with the idea that the current system is a lost cause, and we reject the simplistic view that there is only one solution. The county has a responsibility to the whole Phase 1 cohort. These folks gambled on the county’s program when many of their neighbors didn’t, and in order to solve the CEQA issue and prevent these businesses from going under, the county needs to acknowledge that different solutions will be better for different projects due to their unique circumstances.
- Explore All Possible Options
In a recent discussion directly with CDFA, we learned that unless the County continues to demonstrate progress on CEQA requirements, applicants may be subject to non-renewal of current state licenses. As a result, it is imperative that we fire on all cylinders:
- SSHRs for Everyone. Continue to process SSHRs, including for those files that need to be referred to CDFW beyond those that are up for renewal in case those files are still appropriate for Appendix G and in case the SSHR also can serve as a preliminary basis of an alternate CEQA process that file might be more appropriately using AND because it is a prerequisite for our local ordinance.
- Efficient Processing into Appropriate Pathways. Ensure an efficient process for review of all files, not just for completeness, but for the appropriate Pathway to achieve an annual license at the State level.
- Stay the Course with Appendix G. Verify that Appendix G might still be appropriate for certain types of projects.
- Solidify Alternate Avenues. Nail down the following:
- project specific exemptions to CEQA, including opportunities to define projects to include more than one site, which is allowed if appropriate and if it sufficient describes all activities
- How re-designation of cannabis as an Ag Activity may help with the utilization of some CEQA exemptions, in addition to assisting with other issues that create further barriers
- whether the County’s prior programmatic NOE is valid to fulfill CEQA for purposes of the state annual license, much the way CDFW uses the Ministerial exemption for its LSAs under the General Order.,
- the pros and cons regarding applicants preparing and submitting CEQA analysis for their site directly to CDFA
Our goal is to establish an appropriate prioritized pathway to Annual Licensure for every existing Provisionally Licensed operator based on their specific site and project scope.
- Continue Preliminary Work That Is Needed
- The county has an obligation to continue to pursue ALL potential pathways to Annual Licenses for cultivators who signed up for Phase 1 permitting with the belief that it was a legitimate opportunity.
- In order to demonstrate to the state that there is forward movement on CEQA, we propose that the County stay the course on the following four preliminary steps:
- Evaluate and Report on Each Pathway. Perform a complete evaluation of each potential CEQA option and the pros and cons of the use of each Pathway and report to the Board;
- Assess and Categorize the Applicants. Review the newly updated files and assess which Applicants might be best suited for each pathway and what might specifically need to happen for each category of applications to proceed with the appropriate Pathway for them;
- Keep Getting Organized. Continuing the preliminary organizational work, whether through requiring complete resubmission of all current docs, or digitizing files, or whatever is needed to be able to determine items 1 & 2 and to effectively and efficiently reduce the time before people can know where they stand and to reduce the overall staff time to review files;
- Prioritize Permittees without SSHRs. Prioritizing Applicants who have been issued local Annual Permits without the County having done the SSHR required by the ordinance.
Q: Have sufficient staff and other resources been allocated to these or other steps that will demonstrate the active progress that the state needs to see?
- If provisionals aren’t renewed, the County could lose 6M in taxes.
- New tax revenue from Phase 3 operators won’t come any time soon if those operators can’t cultivate until after their entire use permit process has completed.
- Concerns Regarding Direct Submission of CEQA to CDFA
- Again, we feel strongly that the county must pursue all potential solutions, but we have A LOT of questions about the so-called “Nuclear Option” that Supervisor Williams has mentioned on Facebook and various radio programs.
- We understand the concept: that applicants can “do their own CEQA” and submit directly to CDFA. But we’ve heard very few details about how this would actually work for Phase 1 folks like me, and Supervisor Williams usually follows this with the caveat that CDFA considers this the ‘nuclear option’ because they don’t have the staff and resources allocated to process even a tiny fraction of the 800+ provisionally licensed cultivation businesses in operation in Mendocino County.
- Naturally, this leads us to question if this is actually a reasonable pathway for Applicants at this time.
- Our specific questions are:
- Q: What are the implications to applicants considering this route in terms of timeline and cost?
- Q: Would this require initial studies and potentially full Environmental Impact Reports by each applicant?
- Q: Can you explain the exact process for an applicant to do CEQA themselves?
- Will a current Provisional still be valid in this scenario?
- Will we have to file a new license application and will CDFA issue us new provisionals or will we have to wait possibly years to be authorized to cultivate?
- Will current Provisional Licensees have to cease their current operations while their new application is in process?
- Q: Have other places successfully used this pathway?
- Q: And for how many annual licenses was CDFA able to conduct and process full CEQA reviews in a year?
- Our specific questions are:
Until we understand this pathway fully, it seems really premature for the county to be suggesting that people should start spending money ‘doing their own CEQA’ when it’s likely to be just as much of a bottle neck or dead end as the county program.
- 30 Day Notices and Application Paperwork Organization
- In order to assess the Phase 1 Cohort and identify which pathway works best for each case, the County obviously needs the applications to be updated, complete, and organized.
- More and more of the 30-Day notices have been going out requesting updated site plans, missing documents, and some documents never previously requested.
- The hope, of course, is that this process will lead to the County having all the documents necessary to make a determination for each Applicant about which pathways might be appropriate options for their project.
- Electronic submission of these files should cut down on Staff review time. Now that the submissions are electronic, and contain up-to-date information, what is the new projection of file review time (it was 5 hours per file because the County’s filing system was ineffective)?
Q: Are the 30-day notices working to get applications updated and organized and if so can you begin categorizing and informing applicants where they stand?
Q: Can the County begin to use this information to point to what Pathway could be right for each Applicant:
- Continued processing through Phase 1 using Appendix G,
- Using Categorical Exemptions to issue Notices of Exemption,
- Discretionary use permit,
- Direct submission to CDFA
Operators NEED clarity sooner than later. Many are paused completely waiting for answers before they spend any more money continuing down the road to full compliance. They need to know where they stand.
- Phase 3
- When the CEQA issues started coming to light, the first alternative pathway that was proposed was to develop a Discretionary Use Permit process that Phase 1 operators could be processed through, and incorporate that into “Phase 3” which was originally designed to be for New Cultivation Sites.
- We’re skeptical that Use Permits will provide a viable pathway for many of the Phase 1 cohort without them having to shut down their operation for one or more seasons, but again, we believe that efforts to make this pathway an option should be pursued, as certainly some existing and all new cultivation will need it.
- Q: What is the status of Phase 3 Discretionary Use Permit Ordinance and what is the projected start date?
- Currently scheduled to begin in April of 2021, but it has not yet even gone to the Planning Commission and then has to go back to the BOS. And then when you factor in the use permit timeframe and the bottleneck that will happen if Phase 1 operators must essentially start over in phase 3, cultivation businesses currently in operation are very unlikely to be unable to cultivate for at least 1-2 growing seasons.
- There’s currently a massive effort underway by both the county and the Phase 1 applicants to process these 30-day notices and get more applications complete, updated, accurate, and organized.
- Q: If Phase 1 truly turns out to be a dead end for some of these folks, can the results of this process be utilized to fast-track their discretionary use permit process?
- Specifically, we’d like to request that the county revisit the idea of an expedited Administrative Permit.
- Q: Can the county offer an expedited Administrative Permit for, at a minimum, Phase 1 operators who hit a dead end, using their Phase 1 application materials as the basis for their Administrative Permit Application?
- Q: And can this be done in a way that allows them to continue cultivating, without having a gap in their county authorization or their state provisional licensure, until their county permit is finaled and their state annual license is granted?
- For the businesses who can’t get through Phase 1 and now have to try again for Phase 3, we don’t know what the real impact of those shuttered businesses will be on our local economy.
- We propose that all existing applicants be given priority for any Phase 3 program.
- Note: Humboldt has adopted this model, and with a staff of 14 planners they are getting through about 70 permits a year. In the past, we were told that Humboldt County has had 14 Planners that processed about 70 discretionary review permits per year. Out of a little over 1500 licenses issued in Humboldt, a little more than 400 are Annual State licenses. Note: that has been in the years since State licenses have been issued and also remember, that a decent number of those licenses might be held on the same property/project, so while it looks like maybe 125-150 /year of state licenses, the reality is that there might be 2-5 licenses per project that the County approved, so comparing state licenses overall in jurisdiction to those that have gotten through the annual process does not tell the whole story. Of how many discretionary review permits were issued in that County. As a comparison, Mendocino County has about 820 state licenses and only about 9 are Annual state licenses.
- Q: How is it going to be determined what will be prioritized in Phase 3?
- Q: What is the plan to process applicants?
- Q: What kind of staff and time would it take?
- Q: What is the County’s plan if there’s a gap for many businesses?
- Financial Considerations
- This conversation always comes back to: “How can the county afford to pay for this? It was roughly estimated the cost might be 5-8 million to conduct the SSHR and the Appendix G review and Project Description preparation if prepared by the County.
- Cannabis brought in 6M in tax revenue to the county and could bring in a lot more if our permitting program wasn’t stuck in the mud. If this were reinvested for one year to solve the problem, the cannabis operators would have a chance to thrive and generate far more in Tax Revenue in subsequent years.
- We’re not suggesting that cannabis taxes be used to pay for ALL CEQA reviews for EVERYONE.
- There should be a clear distinction made between PROCESSING of the files and conducting the foundational work, such as the SSHR, sorting files for the most efficient pathway, and verification with adherence to program parameters (which the county has to do) vs. the underlying CEQA work (which the applicant may be responsible for paying for).
- We believe that the actual CEQA processing could be handled on a cost recovery basis AFTER the County has properly conducted the foundational work necessary for a specific CEQA path to be undertaken (Appendix G, NOE, DIscretionary Permit, direct applicant submission) .
- We suggest that you separate out the discussion of ‘who pays for CEQA work’ and first figure out ‘How can it be done?’ (staffing, timelines, process, SSHR contract, etc.)
- Q: Don’t you agree that it is appropriate for the County to do SSHR and whatever other preliminary work is needed to be done to figure out all the viable options and identify which pathway each of our Phase 1 operators’ projects is best suited for?
- Q: Won’t the current electronic submissions of up-to-date and more complete information dramatically reduce the amount of time to conduct those foundational efforts?
CLICK HERE to see the video of the Town Hall from 12/16/2020
The Mendocino Cannabis Alliance has prepared two memos in advance of the Board of Supervisor’s meeting on Tuesday December 8, 2020 on items 5h and 5i.
On Item 5h MCA specifically requests that Board postpone reviewing the Code Enforcement suggestions made until there is more of an opportunity to consider potential unintended consequences.
CLICK HERE to review the County materials for item 5h
CLICK HERE to email the Board of Supervisors and let them know you support MCA’s recommendation for 5h!
Regarding Item 5i, MCA strongly supports the re-classification of cannabis as an agricultural activity but is not certain that this would be sufficient to solve the CEQA issues we are currently facing locally. Therefore we firmly believe that the County must continue to pursue all possible avenues simultaneously with the goal of getting the initial cohort of licensees from Provisional to Annual Licenses.
CLICK HERE to review the County materials for Item 5i
CLICK HERE to email the Board of Supervisors and let them know you support MCA’s recommendation for 5i!
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions!
Both memos may be downloaded by CLICKING THIS LINK.
Re: Agenda Item 5h for Board of Supervisors Meeting 12/8/2020
Discussion and Possible Action Including Introducing and Waiving an Ordinance Amending Mendocino County Code Chapters 1.04, 1.08 and 16.30 Relating to Code Enforcement Procedures and Regulations, Including Administrative Penalty Increases Relating to Stormwater, Cannabis and Building Violations. (Sponsors: Planning and Building Services and County Counsel)
We comment on 5h to express concern that the proposed amendments to these ordinances may conflict with 10A.17 and the Board’s explicit direction concerning Compliance Plans issued with Cannabis Permits. We respectfully request that the Agenda Item be brought back for consideration by the Board only after a careful examination of potentially conflicting language and unintended consequences.
- Potential unintended conflict with 10A.17.100 (C) (compliance plan approach to certain code violations of a commercial cannabis permit candidate) warrants a closer examination of the added language of the proposed ordinance changes.
- We have seen many instances where current Code Enforcement has taken a reasonable approach to encouraging compliance as the goal. However, laws must be evaluated for their potential to be applied, using the plain language of the statute, in a manner that might be contrary to current internal policy or implementation and must be analyzed without presumption that a “reasonable” and circumspect application will in fact be utilized.
- Here, we have language proposed that expands the purview of the NOV and Citation process (Endnote 1) without a clear understanding or time for analysis to see if, in light of 10A17.A 100 (C), whether there is an unintended conflict in policy and the potential for implementation in conflict with how Compliance Plans were designed. Specifically, there is a potential conflict in the procedure to give cultivators one year from the Cannabis Permit issuance date to apply for building permits for any structures used in the cannabis business that were not properly permitted. Furthermore, cultivators were explicitly told that entering into the cultivation permitting process would not automatically expose them to penalties for unpermitted structures, including non-cannabis structures. Perhaps ultimately, language can be added to clarify that it is not the intent to reverse the codified procedures and intent behind Compliance Plans. But, the first question is whether there is absolute certainty that passing these amendments would not erode the Compliance Plan mechanism and the policy behind it?
We respectfully request the careful review of the ordinance language changes with the specific Compliance Plan issue in mind.
2. Given the County’s current position of having still not completed review of annual cultivation permit applications for the vast majority of files despite the fact that it has been 3 years and 7 months since the ordinance passed, it seems that the Supervisors would want to avoid the appearance that they are simply trying to reduce its obligations to review all applications. It also seems to be putting the cart before the horse to enact a law that could potentially use minor building code violations to winnow out current applicants in light of the Compliance Plan approach enacted and the fact that the County has repeatedly failed to keep track of its own files and whether applicants have already fulfilled their requirements.
- Applicants have been paying yearly cultivation taxes despite not having been issued any annual permit and while facing the existential question of whether they will be able to maintain a State license given the CEQA debacle.
- Despite frequent attempts to lay blame at the feet of the State, or unresponsive applicants, there is a substantial mass of application files that various iterations of the Cannabis program failed to keep and track properly. It is disingenuous after 3 ½ years to fail to publicly recognize that fact and not take responsibility for evaluating ALL related laws, enforcement actions, and processes in that context. The County is most definitely one of the parties at fault in the current state of affairs.
3. The argument that may be made that these ordinances are immediately necessary to “go after” the bad actors and to deter future violations is belied by the simultaneous argument made by Staff, that these provisions do not expand any existing authority to target and prosecute violators. If the authority already exists, why the race to expand them (Waive 1st Reading, no analysis with respect to the intersection of these provisions with the Compliance Plan approach)?
4. Additional avenues and resources for enforcement exist currently. Law Enforcement may investigate and the District Attorney may prosecute any person who is violating criminal and many environmental laws with respect to cultivation (Endnote 2). In fact, our District Attorney was adamant about being able to deny cultivation permits for applicants who were convicted of some of those crimes and on numerous occasions threatened to add conspiracy charges to amplify penalties for such crimes.
Current State laws provide for enforcement of Administrative Citations with far greater fines (Endnote 3) and budgetary resources for local jurisdictions to remedy environmental and other negative impacts of cannabis activity (Endnote 4). In fact, it is worth asking whether the County applied for grants under the Prop 64 Public Health and Safety Program for 2020-2023 (Endnote 5) We point to these other avenues for enforcement and State funding, not as blanket opposition to County Administrative procedures and levels set for fines, but as an additional resource for pursuit of avenues of redress.
5. Alternate service by mail provisions have previously been rejected by the Planning Commission and this Board and should be rejected again. Staff proposes to amend Section 1.08.080 by removing a requirement for certified mail as an alternative to personal service and instead simply requiring first class U.S. postal delivery without return receipt. We greatly appreciate some of the other due process considerations that were suggested, such as an expanded period of time to appeal and inclusion of procedural due process in line with State law, but given the nature of rural mail in general, the pandemic and recent slowing of U.S. mail services in particular, removing the certified mail requirement would be disastrous.
6. Section 1.08.030 (H) may be specifically intended to expand the capability of landowner responsibility. Expansion of landowner liability is one thing, but the potential for ensnaring other “Responsible Parties” as defined, warrants further consideration. A closer reading of other provisions concerning Responsible Party’s joint and several liability (Endnote 6) in conjunction with a careful reading of the definition of who a “Responsible Party” is, creates concern that professionals that serve as “Agents” for purposes of filing building, grading and even assisting with cultivation permits, could be scooped up in liability exposure. We want applicants to have professional assistance if it will help in the accurate and efficient filing and processing of such applications, particularly where there is technical knowledge involved. Our rural community already has a shortage of qualified professionals to assist applicants (engineers, etc.). Careful examination of the negative incentive created by additional liability for ANY “Responsible Party” as currently defined, should be considered.
7. Proposed Section 1.08.060(H)(2)(a) contradicts this Board’s direction to maintain consistency with State law definitions regarding Immature Plants. In fact, 10A.17 was specifically AMENDED to align its definition of Immature Plants with the State definition. This proposed section creates a completely different definition.
We respect the need to review and “cleanup” the NOV and Administrative Citation process and to create sufficient deterrence to encourage compliance rather than a flagrant violation of cultivation and other Mendocino County Codes. However, we believe that the proposed amendments fail to adequately consider the unintended consequences of enacting the language proposed. We respectfully request that the issues be carefully examined in light of our comments and returned to the Board after a specific analysis of those considerations has been conducted.
Thank you for your consideration.
Mendocino Cannabis Alliance
(1) Sec.1.08.060 (A): adding additional language including “or other Mendocino County law, or any law that is specifically adopted or otherwise incorporated into the Code” can be the basis of an Administrative Citation.
Sec.1.08.060 (F): adding in “any building or safety code, including but not limited to a violation of MCC Title 18” [building code violations] is subject to the specified fines.
(2) Section 11358, 11366.5.
(3) See, in particular CA F&G Code Section 12025 which indicates fines for $8000/day, $10,000/day, and $20,000/day. See, CA Penal Code Title 10, Crimes Against Public Health, CA Health & Safety Code
(4) See, CA Rev. & Tax Code, § 34019
(5) The Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) released and later extended the deadline for an RFP for local jurisdictions to apply for funding under this law. Letters of Intent were (amended to be) due May 1, 2020 and Proposals were (amended to be) due June 5, 2020.
(6) Sec. 1.08.060(H)(4)
Re: Agenda Item 5i for Board of Supervisors Meeting 12/8/2020
Discussion and Possible Direction to Staff Regarding the Cannabis Cultivation Permitting Program Priorities from September 22, 2020 and Direction to Staff to Review Additional Options for the Program Including Potential Consideration of Cannabis Cultivation as an Agricultural Activity (Sponsor: Planning & Building Services)
MCA is in strong support of all efforts to research and consider the possible redesignation of cannabis cultivation as an agricultural activity in the County. We have not yet seen proof that this would solve our CEQA challenges, but this designation would, at a minimum, resolve other issues. For example, it would normalize CalFire road standards to certain cultivation sites, achieving parity with other agriculture in that regard.
We also understand the need to pause work on some objectives to free up resources to pursue this new path. However, it is imperative that work on current applications continues. MCA respectfully requests that any items that are paused be reported on by Staff and revisited by the Board every 30 days.
Specifically, the CDFW Interagency Agreement should not be paused. This plan, already in motion, to bring CDFW biologists in-house to process the Sensitive Species Habitat Reviews (SSHRs) is essential and we request that it continues. The SSHRs are required by our local ordinance 10A.17, have already been paid for by the current cohort of provisional licensees, and are necessary for Phase 1 permit holders to ultimately be eligible for State Annual Licenses. Pausing on this work may put existing provisional licenses in jeopardy and, at a minimum, would do a great disservice to the vast majority of Phase 1 applicants who have been waiting in good faith for this review to be performed, in some cases for several years.
It remains uncertain whether or not (and if so, under what specific circumstances) redesignating cannabis cultivation as an agricultural activity locally would resolve the CEQA challenges the Phase 1 program has faced. It is imperative that we first understand definitively whether or not CDFA will accept the local redesignation of cannabis cultivation as an agricultural activity in light of the State’s current active designation of cannabis as an agricultural product, and issue Annual Licenses to existing Provisional License holders on this basis. This must be determined before resources are diverted from pursuing the various fixes to Phase 1 and the processing of Phase 1 applicants.
The fact is that cannabis is an agricultural crop. And it is our firm conviction that cannabis cultivation is an agricultural activity and that our County’s cannabis cultivators are farmers. We strongly urge the County to take the lead on redesignation regardless of the CEQA issue and are prepared to support the County in any efforts to designate the activities of our cannabis farming community as such. Ultimately, local redesignation may lead to resolving the core discrepancy between State law (defining cannabis as an agricultural product) and reality (cannabis is an agricultural crop) and enable the smoother transition of our cannabis farmers into the regulated market. This has been one of the underlying causes of our County Cannabis Program’s inability to provide a definitive pathway for our existing Provisional License holders to become eligible for Annual Licenses. While we don’t know if designation at the local level will fix the CEQA issue as long as the State maintains its designation of cannabis as an agricultural product, it clearly has other benefits and should be pursued regardless.
Thus far, our research indicates that local redesignation of cannabis as an agricultural activity has only a limited potential to solve the CEQA problem in certain cases. Santa Cruz County has recently (June 2020) made changes to its cannabis program that certainly provide a model worth considering in detail. However, our initial review of the CEQA documents filed with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) only turns up two projects successfully processed and granted Annual Licenses in this manner. Both of the projects were approved based on a Class 1 Categorical Exemption from CEQA, meaning that the projects consisted of, at most, minor alterations of existing facilities or topographical features involving negligible or no expansion of use beyond that existing at the time of the lead agency’s determination. We are unsure about how many additional projects may be in the queue and eligible for Annual Licenses on a different basis, or if this approach would be useful for new projects.
Despite this, MCA strongly encourages the Board of Supervisors to direct Staff to explore the potential of redesignating cannabis as an agricultural activity without pausing on the CDFW Interagency Agreement and the Sensitive Species Habitat Reviews. We will continue conducting our own research into this option and are more than happy to share information and insights with the County as it explores redesignation as a possible solution.
Thank you for your consideration.
Mendocino Cannabis Alliance
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ukiah, CA – November 18, 2020
The Mendocino Cannabis Alliance (MCA) Board of Directors is pleased to announce their unanimous decision to hire Michael Katz as the organization’s Inaugural Executive Director. Katz has been serving as a Founding Board Member of MCA since its launch last year, and began his service as the organization’s Executive Director on November 11th, 2020.
Casey O’Neill, Member of the MCA Policy Committee, local small farmer and long time advocate for local and state cannabis policy said: “The transition to regulation has been difficult to say the least. Reaching a point where our local trade association has hired an Executive Director is a huge milestone that helps me to feel hopeful for the future. There is much work to do in cannabis policy development and I am glad to support Michael and continue the efforts with MCA. Great success indeed!”
Since entering the cannabis industry in 2015, Katz served as the CEO of the family-owned startup Evoxe Laboratories before co-founding and developing The Emerald Exchange, an event and marketing platform focused on creating market opportunities for licensed, small batch, sungrown, craft cannabis cultivators from Northern California.
Genine Coleman, the Executive Director of Origins Council, MCA’s partner in state-level policy advocacy is celebrating the announcement: “I have had the pleasure of working closely with Michael for the past 3 years in the cannabis advocacy space. His professionalism, marketing expertise and keen intellect will be extraordinary assets to MCA. Most importantly though, Michael is passionate about the people that comprise MCA’s membership and he is deeply committed to the success of the Mendocino cannabis industry.”
Katz brings over 15 years of experience as a Producer and content creator on projects ranging from music videos to stadium sized event graphics, creating branded content for some of the largest consumer brands in the world including Google, YouTube, Apple, Microsoft, Disney, Activision, Marvel Studios, Tylenol, and HP among others. The quality of the material produced under his direct supervision contributed to many awards, including a 2013 Gold Key Art Award and Agency of the Year at the 2013 Game Marketing Awards. He then worked as Head of Production for Wondros Global and 5D Global Studio, both owned by Emmy Award winning director Jesse Dylan before making the transition to the cannabis space.
Patrick Sellers, Chairman of the MCA Board of Directors, believes this is the dawn of a new era for the organization. “Since our founding in February of 2019, MCA has been led by a committed volunteer Board without an Executive Director. That has finally changed. Michael Katz has the skills and abilities to take the organization to another level and I couldn’t imagine a more well suited Executive Director. He has been a charismatic leader on our Board and an essential contributor to MCA’s developmental processes. Most recently he has served exquisitely as our Treasurer through the economic instability of the Covid-19 pandemic. Beyond this, his prior experience as a content producer on the global stage gives him a unique perspective that will be hugely impactful during this next round of existential challenges faced by the Mendocino County cannabis community. I have no doubt that Michael is the most qualified and appropriate person to tell our story to the world, as it happens. He understands the historical significance of our past, and has a vision for our future that I hope will be as much of an inspiration for the whole community as it has been for me.”
“It is a great honor to have been hired to serve as Executive Director by the Board of MCA,’ said Katz. “I look forward to working with the entire Mendocino cannabis community to improve conditions for our essential industry.”
Under Katz’s dedicated leadership, MCA looks forward to expanding the organization’s capacity to serve the needs and interests of membership and build a vibrant and successful future for Mendocino cannabis.
The Mendocino Cannabis Alliance serves and promotes Mendocino County’s world-renowned cannabis cultivators and businesses through sustainable economic development, education and public policy initiatives.
If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Michael Katz at 707-234-5568 or email email@example.com
Mendocino County Board of Supervisors November 2, 2020
501 Low Gap Road
Ukiah, CA 95482
Re: Agenda Item 5e/5f for 11/3/20 BoS Meeting
Discussion and Possible Action Including Adoption of Resolution of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors Ratifying the “Fire Safety Ordinances” of the Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire Protection District(5e), the Hopland Fire Protection District(5f). (Sponsor: County Counsel)
MCA is concerned that, according to the staff memo provided by Building Official Mike Oliphant and Deputy County Counsel Matthew Keidrowski, the wording of the proposed revisions to the Fire Safety Ordinances for the Hopland Fire District (HFD) and the Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire District (RVFD) is more restrictive than the stated intent.
Unless modified, the proposed ordinance would classify all agricultural crop production (including cultivation, drying, processing and/or storage) as an F-1 Occupancy despite the fact that this would, in effect, reverse the progress made through the adoption of the current Ag Exempt Policy to provide for the possibility that certain agricultural structures (non-commercial w/ no public access) may be permitted in a streamlined fashion.
We respectfully request that direction be given to Staff to modify the proposed ordinance language, and we offer the following statement describing the reasons for modification:
As proposed, the ordinances would classify all structures used in agricultural crop production, including those conforming to the County’s Ag Exempt Policy, as F-1 Occupancy. This is contrary to the intent of the Ag Exempt Policy, which allows for agricultural crop production activities to take place in structures with less restrictive requirements, lower building permit fees, and a streamlined permitting process. This is also contrary to the stated intent of the fire districts, as per Building Official Mike Oliphant, that there would be minimal changes for buildings subject to the current Ag Exempt Policy, and that structures conforming to the County’s Ag Exempt Policy would remain a Utility “U” Occupancy in the districts. The proposed ordinances should therefore be modified to reflect the intent (of both the Board of Supervisors and the fire districts) that the allowances under the current Ag Exempt Policy remain intact.
MCA requests specifically that the following activities (which are currently allowed in Ag Exempt structures throughout the county) continue to be allowed, without increased restriction or change of occupancy classification, within the local fire districts:
- Cultivation activities within hoop houses / greenhouses
- Drying activities within sheds or barns
- Storage Activities within sheds or barns
Failing to ensure that these activities remain allowable in Ag Exempt Utility “U” Occupancy structures would be counter to the considerable effort and intent of the Board in creating the Ag Exempt Policy in the first place.
Additionally, we request the following modifications to the proposed ordinances also be considered, and we support Scott Ward’s recommendation that the Board direct the fire districts to review his specific, detailed comments and questions and return with a revised ordinance:
- Modify the ordinances to remove the requirement for an additional operational permit for cannabis operations that is not required for other agricultural activities.
- Modify the ordinances to allow poly water tanks for private fire protection and remove the requirement that they be steel tanks installed in accordance with NFPA Standard 22.
- Modify the HFD ordinance to not require fire sprinklers in agricultural buildings.
- Modify the routing procedures for building permit applications to allow for concurrent plan review so as to avoid delays of up to a month to the existing 6-8 week permit processing time.
- Modify the proposed amendments to remove any discretionary approvals that would not be allowed in a ministerial permit process, specifically the approval of fire sprinkler exceptions for agricultural buildings.
Lastly, we would like to point out that the fee schedules for local fire districts to process and approve building permit applications can be grossly more expensive (nearly 3x) than the county’s building permit application fee itself.
For Example: A cultivation permittee in the Hopland Fire District is charged $10,169.88 to receive an approval letter for 10 hoop houses for which the county Ag Exempt building permit application fee is only $3604.90.
We recognize that the fees are not on the agenda today, but we believe it is important to better understand the drastic disparity in cost and restrictiveness between farmers in certain local fire districts compared with those operating elsewhere throughout the county.
Thank you for your consideration.
Mendocino Cannabis Alliance
October 16, 2020
Mendocino County Board of Supervisors
501 Low Gap Road
Ukiah, CA 95482
Re: Agenda Item 5c, Hemp Pilot Program-
Discussion and Possible Action Including Introduction and Waive First Reading of an Ordinance Adding Chapter 10A.18- Industrial Hemp Cultivation Pilot Program to the Mendocino County Code (Sponsors: Agriculture and County Counsel)
Mendocino Cannabis Alliance reiterates the points made in its two prior memos submitted concerning this program (3/22/20 and 10/06/20) and specifically requests that Board NOT take action on this item until the Agriculture Commissioner has reconvened the stakeholder group previously engaged in this matter in order to flush out critical remaining issues:
- A more detailed distinction between requirements of the ordinance, the “regulations” and the Best Management Practices; more specific;
- Specific recommendations to the Board concerning buffer distances;
- Specific recommendations concerning acreage minimums and zoning allowed for the pilot program in conjunction with item d), below;
- Specific recommendations concerning hemp cultivation maximums in relation to items b, c, and d, above.
- Specific recommendations regarding testing both for proper THC content levels to allow the cultivated cannabis to qualify as hemp under federal regulations and to ensure public safety regarding pesticides, contaminates, and other items screened for under state cannabis regulations.
- Specific recommendations concerning whether organic methods must be adhered to by hemp cultivators or whether other restrictions concerning cultivation methods are necessary to protect cannabis crops given the strict testing requirements of permitted cannabis and the potential for contamination.
In addition, we request the matter not be continued until the Agriculture Department submits a work plan that specifies how it will accomplish the detailed and intensive inspections required by the ordinance and which are necessary to protect permitted cannabis crops.
Permitted cannabis is on-track to bring in $5.8 million this year. Any enactment of a Hemp Program MUST be especially protective of that important economic sector. Additionally, the Board should bring forth a minimum Hemp Tax ordinance BEFORE it passes a Hemp Program, as it did with the Cannabis Tax which was passed BEFORE cannabis was permitted.
If Hemp is not strictly regulated to protect the lawful existing cannabis industry, the county is likely to see a mass exodus of cannabis cultivators and would likely minimize the chances that cannabis cultivators will endure the lengthy and expensive discretionary use process now proposed for Phase 3 expansion and new cultivation.
Thank you for your consideration.
Mendocino Cannabis Alliance
If you agree with the above please email the Board of Supervisors to let them know at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mendocino Cannabis Alliance serves and promotes Mendocino County’s world-renowned cannabis cultivators and businesses through sustainable economic development, education and public policy initiatives.