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 email@example.com
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.
October 11, 2020
Mendocino County Board of Supervisors
Low Gap Road
Ukiah, CA 95482
Re: Agenda Item 3b for 10/13/20 BoS Meeting
Discussion and Possible Action Including Presentation on the Cannabis Local Equity Program, Adoption of a Resolution Approving a Revised Mendocino County Local Equity Program Manual and Authorizing the Chief Executive Officer to Execute the Grant Agreement and Related Documents Including Extensions or Amendments (Sponsor: Planning and Building Services)
MCA applauds the imminent opening of the Equity Grant process which we anticipate will provide much needed assistance to members of the cannabis community still recovering from the effects of the War on Drugs. MCA stands ready, as always, to assist the County in crafting fair eligibility criteria consistent with the requirements of this grant, as outlined by GoBiz. However, we also implore the County to separate the tasks of aligning the program to the current funding source requirements, as required by GoBiz, from the task of reworking the LEP Manual to encompass the larger, and foundational parameters of our local Equity Program. The re-worked LEP Manual can and should be used to apply for additional sources of funding to meet any needs and goals that are beyond the scope of this specific grant.
It is worth noting that a number of local grant authorities are currently in the process of changing their LEP’s to more accurately meet state requirements as well as better serve their applicants by encompassing needs and goals that are broader than the current GoBiz grant.. .
Here are the specific revisions that MCA suggests1 for the County’s Local Equity Program Manual:
- Eligibility criteria should be written to encompass the maximum number of applicants in the County whom the war On Drugs has impeded or prevented from participating in the legal, regulated industry. So, for example, the changes proposed in the 10/0/7/20 LEP Manual to the eligibility requirements could unnecessarily limit the reach of the program. While GoBiz may require certain types of eligibility requirements that can be incorporated into the list, it is imperative that care is taken to not unnecessarily limit the LEP Manual if such requirements are not specifically mandated to.2 Item number 5 is illustrative of the need to further adjust language in the LEP Manual to avoid unintentionally shutting out existing cultivation businesses from eligibility. Direct harm from the War On Drugs, as proven in a variety of ways as outlined below, should, and must, be the guiding principle regarding eligibility. Additional factors can then be utilized to determine the amount of the award each applicant is entitled to.
- In line with the GoBiz recommendations for administering the current grant, MCA recommends that the County allow applicants to use these funds at their own discretion, for the purposes needed to recover from the effects of the War On Drugs on their new or existing businesses. An applicant’s identification of the use of funds and demonstration of use of those funds for that purpose will provide accountability and allow the applicant to be eligible for future
- In order for the applicant to prove direct harm from the War On Drugs, the LEP Manual must include a provision that requires the County to cooperate and assist applicants in obtaining the needed documentation by giving access to relevant records needed to supply proof. For example, an applicant should be allowed to offer a notice from the District Attorney of a threatened asset forfeiture, as proof of w.o.d. impact. Likewise, proof that a raid was conducted, as provided by law enforcement, would be allowed as an illustration of direct harm, regardless of whether anyone was arrested. Types of proof should be listed as examples, but should not limit the proof required to prove the direct harm (i.e.., “Proof of direct harm may include, but is not limited to…”). Sensitivity to the unique disadvantage of providing proof that victims of the War On Drugs face must be incorporated into the
- Enable County staff evaluating grant applications to use a matrix of eligibility criteria so that, when appropriate, an increase in the amount of funding awarded is possible. This flexibility allows the County to specify different amounts in its award system and provide greater awards for those most severely
- Adjust the recommended Eligibility Criteria so that the stated databases concerning poverty levels account for the unique position that cannabis businesses are in with respect to federal prohibition and I.R.S. Rule 280E which prohibits the depiction of ordinary businesses expenses. Cannabis industry applicants must be evaluated based on the net income of the cannabis businesses. However, to avoid grants to businesses that pay the owners high salaries or compensation, any pay to an Owner or immediate household member should be added back into the net if otherwise deducted when reporting the net income of that
- Applicants who have successfully used equity grant funds to bring their businesses into the legal marketplace, or who are able to demonstrate use of the grant to achieve the applicant’s stated purpose for the grant (i.e., install solar power for the business, or upgrade the culvert to CDFW standards, etc.) should be eligible for further funding through a later grant.
In closing, it is imperative to separate out the two parallel goals of adjusting the specific grant distribution requirements in response to GoBiz’s requests for this particular grant from the separate task of reworking our county’s LEP Manual and overarching Equity Program. The LEP Manual and Equity Program must be written and designed in a manner that achieves the overall vision and purpose of ANY equity funding.. It must stick to the principles intended of redressing the harm caused by the War On Drugs on those most impacted by it. The GoBiz grant and its requirements help fill a portion of those goals. Future grants from a variety of sources may be more broadly directed than this current grant, so it is important to have an LEP Manual that encompasses the broader vision and goals of the entire county Equity Program.
Thank you for your consideration.
Mendocino Cannabis Alliance
1 On July 13, 2020, MCA provided the County with a detailed proposed program structure, including eligibility requirements and point matrix to determine award amounts based on extensive research and Equity Program comparisons. Staff was kind enough to meet with us but has not brought forward those suggested changes. At the time, Staff indicated it did not want to delay the roll-out of the program by changing the LEP Manual. However, now, 3 months later, Staff is recommending changes to the LEP Manual and GoBiz is still approving updated LEP Manuals in other jurisdictions,
2 On 10/05/20, Staff emailed the Cannabis Ad Hoc a list of preferred avenues for addressing feedback from GoBiz regarding the eligibility requirements. However, Staff incorporated the most restrictive version into this draft LEP Manual dated 10/07/20, prior to getting feedback from the Ad Hoc or stakeholders.
October 11, 2020
Mendocino County Board of Supervisors
Low Gap Road
Ukiah, CA 95482
Re: Agenda Item 3a for 10/13/20 BoS Meeting
Discussion and Possible Direction to Staff Regarding the Mendocino Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance, Including Possible Changes to Phase Three
(Sponsor: Planning and Building Services)
Thank you very much for allocating this special meeting to discuss possible changes to the Mendocino Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance. We believe that decisions regarding Phase 3 cannot be made without also considering the dynamic constellation of cannabis-related policy issues that are currently unresolved.
Additionally, this memo will address the specific Request for Direction in the Staff Memo dated 10/13/2020 provided by the Department of Planning and Building Services regarding Phase 3 – New Cultivation Sites. Therefore, we have organized our comments into two sections. Section 1 lays out our Recommendations on the Direction of the Cannabis Program and Section 2 is our Direct Response to the PBS Staff Memo and Request for Direction.
Section 1 – Recommendations on the Direction of the Cannabis Program
As we enter these conversations it is imperative that we bear in mind the following:
- According to preliminary Tax Collector’s projections, as reported by Supervisor McCowen at the last BoS meeting, cannabis taxes are likely to bring in $5.8 million dollars this year and have consistently been the only revenue source that has outperformed expectations.
- Sheriff Kendall has reiterated that not one of the violent crimes associated with cannabis was related to a regulated cannabis business and that he believes that there should be a path forward to bring more people into the regulated system. He also believes the current regulations, including at the local level, are far too onerous and complicated. In fact, the Sheriff has stated that if more people get into the regulated system, the ability for law enforcement to effectively pursue criminals will be bolstered. Specifically, he has stated that regulated cannabis operators are more willing to report crimes that can then be investigated and prosecuted. Additionally, he hopes that if the permitting process was simplified, there would soon be a clear distinction between those that are lawfully permitted and those that are not.1
- Mendocino County Board of Supervisors has, from the beginning of cannabis permitting, articulated clear foundations upon which such policy has been rooted: support for legacy cultivation. The Board’s recently stated commitment to follow through on the support for successful Phase 1 applicants, despite the revealed challenges to effectively process those applications into annual permits, indicates that the County continues to believe that legacy cultivation is a priority.
- Mendocino County continues to value environmental protections, and expects those who enter the regulated system to adhere to those values and regulations.
- All those who craft a path forward must acknowledge that the complex regulatory structures enacted for cannabis have created unnecessary bottlenecks, a complete lack of parity with other industries, including other agriculture crops, and a disincentive for cannabis businesses to enter or stay in the regulated system.
With those foundational issues in mind, it is imperative that the County refocus its discussions in a way that aligns with the County’s long stated goals. Specifically:
– It is time to treat cannabis cultivation like all other agriculture.
- Hemp production recently allowed under a Pilot Program is not taxed.
- Hemp and all other row and field crops are qualifying income for Williamson Act contracts but cannabis is not.
- Cannabis has strict testing standards not applicable to other agriculture, including products consumed by humans.
- Cannabis cannot conduct fire safety efforts without fear of losing their local permits, while other agriculture business can.
- Cannabis is being targeted by and treated differently than other agriculture with respect to building permit policies by PBS (labeling building applications as cannabis, categorizing structures as greenhouses that require F1 occupancy instead of as Ag Exempt), local fire districts (distinguishing cannabis activities as more dangerous than other agriculture without any basis), and CalFire clearance (not allowing tree removal within 100’ of any cannabis structure despite 100’ clearance rule for fire safety).
– We must effectively bring into regulation all legacy cultivation.
- The current cohort of permit holders and applicants MUST be prioritized and all efforts to get them to the finish line before the deadline for State provisional licenses must take precedence.
- Additional legacy cultivation MUST be afforded an immediate opportunity to be in the regulatory system, especially now that the Equity Grant is available.
– Re-opening for legacy cultivation and tying proof of prior cultivation to the land and not to the person will NOT jeopardize the use of Appendix G.
- CalCannabis has specifically agreed that reopening permits for legacy cultivation under the existing ordinance would NOT jeopardize the use of Appendix G for site-specific reviews. CDFA also explicitly stated that as far as they were concerned, proof of prior cultivation was appropriate to run with the land and not be tied to a specific person and that changing the definition of “proof of prior cultivation” in that manner would be in line with CEQA and would not change the applicability of Appendix G.
– We MUST WAIT to discuss whether Phase 3 or any discretionary permit process should proceed; if it should include only legacy cultivation that did not make it through the original process; and if it should include new cultivation but prioritize legacy cultivation, until AFTER we have received word on the final scope of work required by CDFA regarding Appendix G and the preliminary success of the new SSHR review process under the CDFW approved Pilot Program.
- In order for the conversations surrounding Phase 3 to happen effectively, we first must reaffirm our goals and vision for the county.
- In order for discussions regarding Phase 3 to happen, we must receive the final information from CDFA regarding the real possibility that the scope of work required to satisfactorily complete Appendix G is far less than was anticipated. Specific indications from CDFA suggest that while our first two sample cases failed to pass the Appendix G threshold, our next two test cases went well beyond what might be required. We must have a final determination from CDFA regarding the actual parameters of what will be required in order to know the scope of the work, the hours it will take, and therefore the costs and whether we could likely conduct all of the work in the required time frame.
- In order to effectively discuss Phase 3, we must see how the Pilot Program with CDFW is going for review of SSHRs. We believe that the ordinance should also be amended, to allow for the review to be conducted by professional biologists not hired or contracted with the county as well, but at the very least, we need to see if the current cohort is going to make it through and how long the reviews will take before we start discussing Phase 3 or a land use based discretionary permit program so that we include those left behind if the SSHR review holds things up.
In essence, it is important to examine County priorities, reaffirm or specifically reject long standing positions, assess the reality of the current situation with concrete data that will soon be available before embarking on discussions, whether truncated, as Staff suggests, or comprehensive, regarding Phase 3, zoning, and the use of the discretionary review process.
We believe it is worth calendaring the Phase 3 discussions for a time after the appropriate data is obtained, but in a timeframe that allows the County to take advantage of California Business and Professions Code Section 26055(h), enacted under MAUCRSA, which allows a local jurisdiction to avoid additional environmental reviews ordinarily required under CEQA, if it passes a discretionary permit process before July 1, 20212, especially if it turns out to be the only path forward for existing applicants. However, to discuss the issues before more data concerning the progress and scope of the work to be conducted for Phase 1 applicants is shortsighted and meaningless. To conduct a piecemeal discussion as Staff recommends, would likely land us right back where we are now, with an ordinance that did not have the benefit of all of the relevant information.
Section 2 – Direct Response to the PBS Staff Memo and Request for Direction
PBS Staff has requested/recommended that action on the following three critical topics be deferred to a later date:
- Developing a Discretionary Permit Model for Phase One and Two applicants;
- Inclusion of Rangeland in the Zoning Table for Phase Three;
- Allowance for Expanded Cultivation in Phase
MCA prefers to defer the entire discussion until more data is received, perhaps to November, but urges that ANY discussions involve all relevant topics.
Phase 3 has been discussed as a potential Plan B or alternate pathway for existing Phase 1 & 2 operators to achieve eligibility for CDFA Annual Licenses should the Cannabis Ad Hoc be unable to resolve the CEQA issues facing our County’s 800+ Provisional Licensees.
We reiterate our support for Staff time to be allocated to Phase 3 ONLY if: 1) the primary focus is on creating a viable pathway to annual licensure for the existing cohort of legal operators, 2) the existing cohort receive priority processing if/when this permitting window opens, and 3) the development of Phase 3 does not further jeopardize the efforts to continue processing all Phase 1 & 2 permits under the existing ordinance, including those that apply during a reopening for legacy cultivation, and if the processing of those permits allow for applicants to be eligible for CDFA Annual Licenses before the expiration of all Provisional Licenses at the end of 2021.
We cannot support any decision to develop and launch Phase 3 that does not take into consideration the above listed priorities. The Staff recommendations ignore these considerations and effectively repeat the mistakes of the past: piecemeal enactments that do not further the value behind and a cohesive vision for a county cannabis program. We see this piecemeal approach to be negligent, at best, in regards to our existing legal operators and will not support this program as proposed.
Below are our responses to the 6 items listed in the Staff Memo that PBS Staff is requesting direction from the board on:
[Note: Requests in the PBS Staff Memo are italicized.]
- Type of discretionary permit required (Use Permits or Administrative Permits) for each permit category and zoning district on the Draft Revised Table
- MCA is in favor of the proposed zoning table and requests that resource land zones (previously included in Phase 1 & 2) including Rangeland (RL), Forestland (FL), and Timber Production Zones (TPZ) be added to the table.
- We recommend that all new cultivation sites within resource lands require a Minor Use Permit (Minor UP) and that all existing sites (with expansion allowed up to 10,000 SF of canopy) require an Administrative Permit (AP).
- MCA has attached a Zoning Chart of its recommendations.
- Confirmation of the Board’s willingness to defer to a later date the potential inclusion of RL as part of Phase Three and expansion above 10,000 square-feet.
- MCA is not in favor of deferring the inclusion of additional zones for the reasons stated above.
- We are also not in favor of deferring the inclusion of expansion above 10,000 SF. We stand by our previous position on levels of expansion and reference the following from our memo on 02/01/2020:
- Recommendation for Outdoor Cultivation: allow expansion up to 1 acre with AP over 10,000 sq. ft. if allowed.
- Recommendation for Mixed Light Cultivation: allow expansion, with no specific recommendation for limit across the board, but instead case by case review of the request in each application bearing in mind the resources and impact in that instance. Require AP for expansion over 10,000 sq. ft. up to 22,000 sq.ft. and UP for any expansion above 22,000 sq.ft. if allowed.
- Recommendation for Indoor Cultivation: allow expansion, with no specific recommendation for limit across the board, but instead case by case review of the request in each application bearing in mind the resources and impact in that instance. Except for Industrial zoning, which currently allows up to 10,000 sq. ft. of Indoor cultivation, require AP for expansion over 5,000 sq. ft. and UP for any expansion above 5,000 sq.ft. if allowed. For expansion for Indoor cultivation on Industrial property above 10,000 sq. ft. if allowed, require UP.
- Allowance for scaling up to a larger cultivation size permit type given the acreage averages of surrounding parcels, similar to that allowed for existing cultivation sites. See
- MCA is in favor of this recommendation and agrees with Staff that this practice has been beneficial with implementation of Phases 1 & 2 and parity between the existing system and Phase 3 for this issue would be appropriate and logical.
- Aligning permit categories with the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA). This should be reviewed in conjunction with items 5 and 6
- MCA is in favor of this recommendation and suggests that, in most cases, efforts to align with CDFA regulations, definitions, and nomenclature will be beneficial and create less confusion for applicants/permittees.
- MCA has prepared a comparison chart of CDFA license types and Mendocino County Permit Types so that the Board may better understand the differences.
- If the Board of Supervisors directs Staff to allow Specialty Indoor permit type, which would allow 501-5,000 square feet of Cultivation area, then Staff recommends the Board of Supervisors also direct staff to make additional changes to either the Specialty Cottage Indoor permit type or the square footage allowance for a Specialty Indoor permit type.
- MCA is in favor of Option 1 as presented by PBS staff. This option is aligned exactly with CDFA permit types, whereas Option 2 creates discrepancy between the MCCO and CDFA permit types. We recommend avoiding this potential for confusion.
- If the Board of Supervisors directs Staff to allow the Specialty Outdoor permit type, which would allow 501-5,000 square-feet of Cultivation area, then Staff recommends the Board of Supervisors also direct staff to make additional changes to either the square footage allowance for a Specialty Cottage Outdoor permit type or the square footage allowance for a Specialty Outdoor permit
- MCA is not in favor of a 500 SF limit on the Specialty Cottage Outdoor license type. This does not align with the 2500 Sq. Ft. limit for the same license type with CDFA. As written, the Current Table 2 (Attachment A), Draft Table 2 (Attachment B) AND the CDFA license categories are all in alignment for the tiniest state license type and we strongly recommend keeping them aligned.
Thank you for your consideration.
Mendocino Cannabis Alliance
1 Sheriff Kendall was consulted and approved of the use of this accurate statement of his position.
2 CA B&P Code Section 26055(h): Without limiting any other statutory exemption or categorical exemption, Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) of the Public Resources Code does not apply to the adoption of an ordinance, rule, or regulation by a local jurisdiction that requires discretionary review and approval of permits, licenses, or other authorizations to engage in commercial cannabis activity. To qualify for this exemption, the discretionary review in any such law, ordinance, rule, or regulation shall include any applicable environmental review pursuant to Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) of the Public Resources Code. This subdivision shall become inoperative on July 1, 2021.