The Calaveras County Planning Department released a 20-page draft ordinance Friday that would ban commercial cultivation of cannabis in response to a directive from the county Board of Supervisors earlier this year.

The draft ordinance repeals in its entirety Calaveras County Code Chapter 17.95, governing medical cannabis cultivation and commerce.

The new chapter is titled, “All commercial cannabis cultivation & commerce prohibited; recreational and medical cannabis cultivation prohibited except as allowed under state law; reasonable regulation of recreational and non-commercial medical cannabis cultivation.”

Trevor Wittke, a grower who is on the Calaveras Cannabis Alliance board, said the draft ban released by the county planning department on Friday seems intended to put hundreds of law-abiding growers in Calaveras County out of business.

“If it gets implemented, it would eliminate from 200 to 500 businesses that would have been licensed under the regulatory program,” Wittke said. “This would completely eliminate all commercial cultivation in the county.”

‘Maximum extent’

If the draft ordinance becomes law, it will prohibit “to the maximum extent allowed under state law, with limited exceptions, the commercial, medical, and recreational cultivation, manufacture, testing, distribution, transportation, and storage of cannabis in order to preserve the public peace, health, safety, and general welfare of the citizens of Calaveras County and the environment . . . ” the draft ordinance states.

The draft ordinance also intends to retain the ability of patients to have access to medical cannabis to comply with state law.

“For the most part, it’s a pretty comprehensive ban,” said Bill McManus, chairman of the Committee to Ban Commercial Cultivation in Calaveras County and co-author of Measure B, a ballot initiative that would have banned cultivation but was thrown out by a Superior Court judge.

“The only problem I have is the dispensaries appear to be left untouched,” McManus said. “This draft ordinance fails to recognize dispensaries are essentially indoor grows.”

He called dispensaries “among the most egregious growers based on what they can do with little or no monitoring.”

“They represent some of the largest growing facilities in the county,” he said.

McManus said he and others who want to outlaw grows will go over the draft ordinance this weekend. He said people should remember this is the initial release of a draft ordinance, and the Board of Supervisors will review it.

“If there’s anything the board doesn’t like, they will send it back to the planning department for revisions,” McManus said. “Then we’ll see when the 45-day public review starts.”

Representatives for Sheriff Rick DiBasilio, Calaveras County Counsel, the county administrator and the county planning department did not respond to requests for comment.

Enforcement

A key question debated on all sides of the cannabis cultivation issue in Calaveras County has been, if there is a ban, how will the county fund the Sheriff’s Office to enforce it?

A section of the draft ordinance is devoted to enforcement, fines and liability to pay costs and fines.

It states in part that, in any enforcement action, each owner or occupant who causes, permits, or maintains unlawful cultivation, manufacture, testing, distribution or transporting of cannabis shall be liable for all administrative fines and for all actual costs incurred by the county, including administrative costs, staff time, attorneys’ fees and abatement costs.

The law would deem anyone who violates it guilty of a separate offense for each day a violation is committed, continued or permitted.

The fine would be $1,000 per day until the grow is eradicated and verified by an enforcement officer.

The draft ordinance has a section stating it doesn’t apply to noncommercial cultivation of recreational cannabis by people 21 or older, and noncommercial cultivation of medical cannabis by people 18 or older, provided they grow no more than six plants indoors per private residence.

Wittke said the draft ordinance appears to lack funding mechanisms for enforcement, other than fees and fines levied against people who may not pay them.

“Essentially it’s no different than what happened up in Butte County in 2015,” he said.

“They have problems up there,” Wittke said. “People kept growing and they’ve only been collecting about 6 percent of fines. It has not been effective in controlling cultivation or actually eliminating illegal cultivation. They’re still growing there, tons of grows, and their recovery rate for fines is miniscule, 6 percent recovery.”

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