Ad Hoc Committee Recommendations to 9.31 Ordinance

Today, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors’ Medical Marijuana Ad Hoc Committee (Supervisors John McCowen and Tom Woodhouse) unveiled its recommendations for countywide medical cannabis cultivation permits. You can download the pdf here: 3 15 16 Memo for Medical Marijuana Regulations

They are as follows:

1. It is recommended that the Agricultural Commissioner, in collaboration with County Counsel, take the lead on development of an updated cultivation ordinance, which may also include processing, testing, manufacturing, transportation, distribution and dispensing with input from relevant County departments.

2. Because State law will continue to evolve prior to the issuance of licenses beginning in 2018 it is recommended that all local ordinances and permits contain a statement to the effect that in addition to the requirements for local permits, all permittees must also be in compliance with all State environmental licensing requirements.

3. In addition to the cultivation permit types included on the chart (see link), it is recommended that Mendocino County adopt regulations that authorize local permits that are consistent with State license types for Nursery, Manufacturer, Testing, Dispensary, Distribution, and Transportation. See link for a list of all State license types.

4. The Board is asked to consider the appropriate zone for conducting the above activities. (A summary of the Inland Zoning Districts can be found on this link.)Consideration also needs to be given to unique zoning districts that are included in the Coastal Zoning Code, Mendocino Town Plan and Ukiah Valley Area Plan.

5. When State licenses become available in 2018, MMRSA places cannabis cultivation within the purview of the California Department of Food and Agriculture which is expected to contract with local Agricultural Commissioners. Therefore it is recommended that the Agricultural Commissioner assume authority for local regulation of cannabis cultivation and nurseries upon adoption of an updated local ordinance with the following exception: that for 2016 and possibly 2017, Type 2 cultivation permits for 99 plants not to exceed 10,000 square feet of total canopy be administered by the Sheriff’s Office which has expertise in administering this type of program and will be able to accommodate significantly more permittees than the Agricultural Commissioner who is already being asked to assume greatly expanded responsibilities. All permitting authority will be transferred to the Agricultural Commissioner no later than 2018.

6. With cannabis defined as an “agricultural product” policy questions are raised regarding the Right to Farm Act and Williamson Act. The ad hoc recommends that during this transition period cannabis cultivation be excluded from the Right to Farm Act and Williamson Act, except that cannabis may be cultivated on appropriately zoned Williamson Act land that otherwise qualifies for the Williamson Act.

7. It is recommended that the Agricultural Commissioner work with stakeholders to develop appropriate recommendations for local cannabis appellations.

8. It is recommended that the County continue working cooperatively with other counties on a regional basis.

9. It is recommended that the County work cooperatively with Cities within Mendocino County to adopt complimentary regulations and address common concerns.
10. It is recommended that small cultivators be allowed to operate co-operatively for processing and other functions. It is recommended that the Agricultural Commissioner work with stakeholders to determine appropriate guidelines and the ability to implement them under existing Food and Agricultural regulations.

11. It is recommended that the Board endorse amendments to State law that will permit a closed loop of cultivation, processing, transportation, distribution, and manufacturing without the need for a State license for cannabis products that are cultivated and consumed within the county of origin.

12. It is recommended that the Board endorse amendments to State law that will permit transportation of small amounts of cannabis to testing labs, for purposes of product demonstration, and other specified “pre-commercial” purposes without a State license.

13. It is recommended that the Board consider residency requirements for the issuance of permits, especially for cultivation, as a means of protecting current cultivators and guarding against an influx of individuals or entities who are not currently locally involved. County Counsel can research the appropriate legal requirements and findings that may justify a residency requirement.

14. It is recommended that the Board consider a requirement that cultivation permits issued during the interim period, prior to the availability of State licenses, be issued only to those entities and individuals who have been cultivating locally on or before January 1, 2016. This may also serve to address the residency requirement.

15. There is a strong correlation between cultivation that is not associated with a permanent residence and negative community and environmental impacts. Therefore, it is recommended that cultivation permits for larger operations only be granted to those that are associated with an established residence. Consider whether this should be a requirement for all cultivators.

16. It is recommended that all permittees must come into compliance with all other zoning and code related issues, but that they be allowed to do so simultaneously while engaging in permitted cannabis activity. A similar approach was taken in 2010 and 2011, when the Sheriff’s permit program was operating, as a means to encourage cannabis cultivators to come forward while also addressing unpermitted ponds, septic systems, structures and other issues. For the same reason, it is recommended that penalty fees be waived, consistent with prior practice, as long as the permittee is working diligently to correct outstanding compliance issues.

17. It is recommended that the Board seek to implement a track and trace system as soon as feasible and that vendors be solicited who may want to provide this service at no cost as a demonstration and testing of their ability to effectively provide this service.

18. Enforcement has always been an on-going issue and the current administrative remedies have proven cumbersome and often ineffective. It is recommended that the Board direct the adoption of an expedited administrative process that combines the notice of violation and notice of hearing.

19. In place of, or in addition to, adoption of an expedited administrative process, some jurisdictions have made violations of their cannabis regulations a misdemeanor as an added enforcement mechanism. This approach is presented for discussion.

20. It is recommended that fee schedules be adopted, based on recommendations from those County departments that will be involved, to provide for reasonable cost recovery.

21. Local jurisdictions may also adopt local taxes. The Board is invited to discuss what level of local taxation may be appropriate and to what uses should the proceeds be directed.

22. It is recommended that the Board review existing limitations on cultivation contained within the current Mendocino County “Medical Marijuana Cultivation Regulation” (attached) in light of State regulation. Unless the Board directs otherwise, all current standards, conditions, and limitations in the current cultivation ordinance will continue to apply to all cannabis cultivation.

23. The Board is encouraged to discuss and give direction on any additional areas of concern.

You can read the full memo here on the County’s website.