Yesterday was a major win for cultivators in Phase 1.  The Planning Commission gave a resounding acknowledgement of the extreme struggle that Phase 1 has been, and the potential dead-end it may become for many existing operators.  Together, we asserted that small cannabis farms are both viable and a valuable contribution to the greater Mendocino County community.  We asked that the Phase 3 ordinance be amended to provide a workable bridge for Phase 1 applicants who need to migrate to Phase 3.  They listened.

If the Board of Supervisors accepts their recommendations, Phase 1 applicants would:

1.    be able to apply in Phase 3 with an Administrative Permit, not a Major Use Permit.
2.    be given a 30-60 day early enrollment window in Phase 3 before new projects could apply.
3.    be able to convert their Phase 1 application into a Phase 3 application with an abridged application requesting only the bare minimum additional information and documentation.

It was also a small victory for those NOT in the Phase 1 program wanting to apply for a Specialty Cottage Permit.  They recommended reducing the level of discretionary review down to an Administrative Permit.  This would be a significant reduction in the barriers to entry for those seeking to cultivate 25-plants of Outdoor, 2.5k SF of Outdoor or ML 1 or 2, or 500 SF of indoor.  MCA has continued to fight for the “mom-and-pop” gardeners in our community since Prop 64 passed and this small victory feels huge.

To be clear, there is still a lot of work to be done.  The devil is always in the details, and there are a lot of details still to be determined.

Furthermore, while the Planning Commission did not recommend expansion to 10% of parcel size in any zones, they also didn’t recommend a 1-acre cap.  The discussion was complicated and illuminated each Commissioner’s reasons for their position.  Three of the five Commissioners present were, at one point, in favor of a 1-acre cap, but it took four votes to send a consensus recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.  In the end, rather than simply informing the Board of Supervisors that they did not have a consensus on the issue, they tried to negotiate and ultimately ended up recommending that the Board of Supervisors consider a maximum cultivation area between 1-acre and 5% of parcel size.

MCA wants to thank everyone who spoke up, sent letters, joined our Policy Call, participated in the public discourse on social media and around the dinner table.

We especially want to thank our Policy Committee, Advisors,  Board of Directors, and our Executive Director for helping to shoulder the burden of advocating for our members and our community through such a consequential turning point in continuing to develop the Mendocino County Cannabis Permitting Program.

Here is a transcription of the resolution the Planning Commission is sending to the Board.  Next stop, the Board of Supervisors!

Motion from Planning Commission 

1. The planning commission recommends that the board of supervisors adopt ordinance amendment 082021 Dash 0002, making the changes to code sections as shown in the attached exhibit A and recommending the following additional changes.

  • Section 22.1 8.03081 be revised to allow for the drilling of test water wells
  • Provisions in section 22.1 8.030 regarding cultivation exempt from a permit are recommended to remain in chapter 10 a .17
  • Section 22.1 8.050a be revised to allow applicants previously denied on the basis of the four bullet points stated on page 4 of the staff report, as well as applicants who were denied for being non-responsive to request for information by the county.
  • Section 22.1 8.050B1 be revised to require an administrative permit instead of a major used permit.
  • Section 22.1 8.060 be revised to include a streamlined application process for applicants of phase 1 permits for an application permit under chapter 22.18, and also include a 30 to 60 day window of time where phase 1 applicants may apply for an application permit under chapter 22.18 before other application process is opened.
  • Section 22.1 8.060 be revised to include a requirement for applicants for land use permits on private roads to notify all property owners abutting that Private Road of The public hearing for the land-use permit.

2. Appendix A be revised as follows

    • Specialty cottage outdoor limitations be modified to be consistent with state law and regulations

    • For all specialty cottage cultivation types the permit required by the zoning table be changed to an administrative permit

    • Require a major use permit for all medium outdoor medium mix light and medium indoor on agricultural zoned parcels

    • Require a major used permit for nursery permits in agricultural and upland residential and RR10 districts

    • For small outdoor and small indoor cultivation types in the RR 10 and upland residential zoning district a major use permit is required

    • For small indoor and small mix like tier 1 and tier 2 cultivation types in the agricultural zoning district a minor use permit is required


3. The planning commission for the recommends that the board of supervisors consider the following

  • Consider whether to require renewable energy sources for medium indoor and medium mix light tier 1 and tier 2 in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to high energy usage

  • Placing an acreage limitation on the amount that can be cultivated pursuant to footnote six in appendix A. The commission was not able to reach consensus on a limitation but discussed a maximum area from 1 acre up to 5% of the parcel size but one commissioner recommended allowing up to 10% of parcel size in the range land zoning district.

  • Allocate appropriate resources to the department of planning and building services and the Mendocino county sheriffs office for permitting enforcement and oversight.