Group proposes new county cannabis regs

An independent cannabis policy group announced its plans to seek voter approval for a proposed county-wide cannabis regulatory measure for the November ballot at two different Willits cannabis forums on February 6, called the “2016 Mendocino Heritage Initiative.”

Representatives of the proposed measure explained their efforts during the forums, which were organized to propel public discussion as to proposed changes to the county’s current marijuana ordinance, known as the 9.31 “zip-tie” program. The Board of Supervisors’ Marijuana Ad Hoc Committee, consisting of Supervisors McCowen and Woodhouse, have said they will present a revised 9.31 ordinance to the Board by March.

A press release handed out at the forums states the proposed regulations would: direct the county to issue every type of licensed covered by the new statewide cannabis regulations, include zoning limitations, requirements for cultivation, manufacture, dispensing, testing, distribution, and transportation of medical cannabis, permit fees, business taxes, and enforcement, repeal 9.31 and the plant count until new requirements are enacted, and protect agriculture under the county Right-to-Farm ordinance, amongst other provisions.

During the grassroots community forum held at the Little Lake Grange, Justin Calvino, chair of the new policy committee, spoke to the 200 person plus audience about the proposed new regulations. “It’s going to bring us in alignment” with the new state laws, he explained, “and address some of the small business and small farmer needs that we have in the county.”

At the following forum the same day, hosted by the Marijuana Ad Hoc Committee at the Willits Senior Center, Emerald Cup founder and Laytonville resident Tim Blake spoke to the supervisors, county Agriculture Commissioner Chuck Morse, and the crowd of over 300 people. Blake said he had participated in the 9.31 program, which he called “revolutionary,” and tried hard to work with county officials for many years. After warning that local growers would leave or be priced out by farmers in more welcoming counties, Blake implored the supervisors, saying “you have a chance to do something for us. I’d like to think you guys will do that, but at the same time, I can’t stand around anymore and allow this to happen.”

Blake went on to say he was working with a group of residents and attorney Omar Figueroa to put forward an initiative “that should have always been written for this county—no more compromise.” He told the supervisors he would like to see them adopt an ordinance similar to Humboldt’s, in order to prevent locals like himself from considering leaving the county to be able to compete. Blake concluded that he hoped the group “wouldn’t have to bring this before the voters” and he didn’t want to be contentious, but it was essential the supervisors support local farmers or face economic losses to the county as well as long-time residents, and he felt an independently drafted measure might address the cannabis community’s concerns.

The proposed Mendocino Heritage Ordinance draws on parts of the new statewide cannabis laws, the upcoming statewide adult use initiative, existing Health and Safety Codes, the Business and Professional Code, and the county Right-to-Farm ordinance.

Calvino also presented the Mendocino Appellation project, and a proposed map of regional appellations within the county, which would allow local farmers to promote the Mendocino brand as well as their own smaller growing region. County appellations are included in the new statewide medical marijuana regulations, which redefine cannabis cultivation as agriculture. The draft Mendocino appellations include Spyrock/Bell Springs, Covelo/Dos Rios, Long Valley/Branscomb/Leggett, North Coast, Willits/Potter Valley/Redwood Valley, Comptche, Ukiah Valley, Anderson Valley/South County, and South Coast/Greenwood Ridge.

The group will be holding an event to provide further information about the proposed measure at the Saturday Afternoon Clubhouse on February 26.