Jason Cowan
The Union Democrat

The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors extended an urgency ordinance Tuesday that will allow hundreds of commercial and other marijuana farmers to continue legal operation.

The extension was proposed by Gary Tofanelli, seconded by Dennis Mills and passed by the required four-fifths vote. Clyde Clapp was the lone dissenting vote.

Tuesday’s vote extended the ordinance until it expires by law or is replaced by a permanent ordinance.

Legally, the ordinance can remain in effect for up to one more year. Calaveras County Counsel Megan Stedtfeld said it cannot be renewed after that. Urgency documents can be renewed only twice. The previous board renewed the current ordinance in June.

Plans to install a permanent ordinance are in the works. The board last month directed county staff to craft a ban document that could return for vote by the end of March and take effect within 30 days after the vote.

Additionally, Measure B, a proposal to ban marijuana cultivation in the county, is slated for vote May 2. If the vote-by-mail item fails, supervisors say they would take it as direcwpermanent ordinance accordingly.

The extension came after a confusing sequence of events Tuesday that led a few to believe supervisors were going to allow the urgency ordinance to expire.

Jack Garamendi originally proposed to extend the ordinance for a period not to exceed a year, and Michael Oliveira seconded. It died, however, after Tofanelli, Clapp and Dennis Mills voted against.

The vote resulted in an audible groan from the crowd. One man, a cultivation activist seated in the front row the entire event, stormed out of the chambers.

After the vote failed, Tofanelli stated he wasn’t in favor of extending for a certain period of time. He wanted to set a timeline for an urgency ordinance that would be replaced with the approval of a permanent ordinance. His wishes were reflected in his motion that was ultimately accepted.

In theory, the two motions were the same. Stedtfeld said after the meeting the only thing that changed was the language.

If it were to expire, it would have erased the regulatory system adopted by the county in May. If nothing had been adopted in its stead, marijuana cultivation would not have been allowed nor outlawed under law. There would be nothing to stop new growers from entering the county.

The resolution extended an ordinance that many, including Calaveras County Sheriff Rick DiBasilio, said was not a good document but would do more harm than good if allowed to expire.

DiBasilio said at the meeting the extension was an insurance policy that could remain regardless of what were to happen with the upcoming permanent ordinance attempts.

His department received $723,880 of the nearly $1.4 million in fees paid so far for permits issued to marijuana growers. The department has the money earmarked for marijuana-related purposes.

A majority of public speakers Tuesday expressed sentiment in favor of extension of the urgency ordinance. Many urged supervisors to take their time crafting a permanent ordinance, and others questioned whether money would be available federally to support a commercial cultivation ban.