Members of the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday put off making any final decision on a new ordinance to permanently ban commercial cannabis cultivation until at least next week.
They also spent time tweaking language in a new draft ordinance to regulate medical cannabis dispensaries and directed staff to come back with another draft at a future, undetermined date.
The decision to put off further work on a new ban ordinance came after District 4 Supervisor Dennis Mills, who represents communities including Angels Camp, Altaville, Salt Spring Valley and Copperopolis, presented a 61-page document titled “Cultivating Disaster” that touts environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation in Calaveras County.
The Union Democrat published a report “Toxic chemicals in illegal pot grows raise concerns” in early September. The report documents how researchers, law enforcement and others are raising alarms about toxic chemicals used on illegal grow sites in mountain forests and foothill areas of California where people grow and process marijuana, including Calaveras County and the Stanislaus National Forest.
The document distributed by Mills is described as a study, a report and a white paper. It cites and reprints previously published information, including work from The Union Democrat. Mills read in part from a press release Wednesday morning as he said in a 25-minute presentation the decision made “by the previous county Board of Supervisors to temporarily allow marijuana cultivation in our county was a huge mistake.”
The only answer to the ecological disaster caused by cannabis cultivation is to ban it and stop the pollution, Mills said. Asked by The Union Democrat how much the report cost to put together, Mills responded he paid for it out of his own pocket and declined to say how much he spent.
Without tax revenues from regulated growers in the event of a permanent ban, Mills recommends recruiting the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the federal Environmental Protection Agency to help the county eradicate illegal cannabis cultivation, and to help clean up illegal grows where toxic pesticides and rodenticides are harming Calaveras County watersheds. Mills also said he is talking to Congressman Tom McClintock.
About 50 people attended the second day of the board’s special meeting dealing with cannabis cultivation. Some people who oppose a ban on commercial cultivation began raising points of order to the chair of the board, saying public comment should be reopened because Mills was presenting new information that everyone needed to look at.
“This is not new information,” Mills told people in board chambers. “This is all public record information. Simply because I did it doesn’t make it new.”
District 3 Supervisor Michael Oliveira, the board chair, had staff print copies of Mills’ document for the public. The board then voted 4-1 to table the ban ordinance until the next board meeting, Tuesday Oct. 24, so the county’s environmental consultant can review it. Mills supported the motion to table and voted for it. District 5 Supervisor Clyde Clapp, who ran on a platform supporting a ban and said Wednesday he remains committed to a ban, voted against.
Oliveira said he has not made a public statement on his position regarding a ban and he remains open to all information. District 1 Supervisor Gary Tofanelli declined to say where he stands, for, against or neutral.
District 2 Supervisor Jack Garamendi, who represents Mokelumne Hill, Sheep Ranch, Mountain Ranch, Calaveritas, Wilseyville, West Point, Paloma, Glencoe and Rail Road Flat, says he is committed to aggressive regulation of commercial cannabis, with taxation of legal growers to pay for strict enforcement and to ensure public safety.
It’s unclear whether Mills’ plan to recruit federal agencies like the DEA and EPA and the Mother Lode’s congressman to rescue Calaveras County from hundreds of illegal marijuana growers and grows is viable.
One of the articles cited in the document circulated by Mills, “Illegal Pot Farms Are Poisoning California’s Forests,” published by The Atlantic in May, points out some members of Congress have been pushing to entirely de-fund the Drug Enforcement Administration’s marijuana eradication program. The article also notes a bill introduced in the House earlier this year proposes to completely eliminate law enforcement functions of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management and turn those duties over to the states.
McClintock’s press secretary, Bill George, said by phone the congressman was not available Wednesday evening.
Garamendi said McClintock has co-authored several pieces of legislation that seek to prevent the federal government from enforcing laws in California.
“Do people really believe Jeff Sessions is going to come out to Calaveras County to eradicate cannabis?” Garamendi said. Asked whether it’s realistic to court the federal DEA and EPA to get involved in cleaning up illegal grows and their environmental impacts, Garamendi said, “I think that might be the real pipe dream.”
Former District 1 Supervisor Cliff Edson said, “If you’re going to give facts make sure they’re correct, not twisted. The facts presented now could have been given three weeks ago. When you do a study, a fanatic can take it any direction.”
Moments later outside board chambers, Edson said of Mills and his presentation, “He came with envelopes and if it’s something important that could influence their decision, the public should have time to review it. With all the research I’ve done in watershed management, the thing I’ve found is you can find information to justify the result you’re searching for.”
Measure C funding that comes from taxing registered cannabis growers, approved by voters in November 2016, makes up 7.13 percent of the current Calaveras County budget, Auditor-Controller Rebecca Callen said Wednesday.
She broke it down like this: “$2,353,727.81 was cash carry from Measure C + $2,150,777 budgeted measure C = $4,504,504.81. Total General Fund budgeted appropriations is $63,173,570.”
The document distributed Wednesday by Mills can be viewed online at https://silentpoison.com .