Jason Cowan
The Union Democrat

Less than two months after the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors said a ban on cannabis growing could be modified to allow for regulation if Measure B fails, officials changed their minds Tuesday.

The discussion came at the tail end of an agenda item that established supervisors Jack Garamendi and Dennis Mills as representatives of an ad hoc committee to gather ideas about a permanent ordinance if voters shoot down Measure B in May.

On Jan. 31, Calaveras County Counsel Megan Stedtfeld polled supervisors whether they’d like to create an internal committee to begin a dialogue in advance should the ban fail at the ballots. It would identify modifications before the vote.

Garamendi, who said he watched the video of the meeting Monday, said he considered the establishment of the committee as an attempt to pursue regulatory options in parallel with a county prepared ban.

“We made very clear staff direction to the staff to create a ban,” Garamendi said. “It was my understanding the ad hoc committee was a mechanism, should the ban fail and the majority of people decide not to ban, we regulate.”

Supervisor Clyde Clapp said he never agreed to any type of regulation. Supervisor Gary Tofanelli said they had not made any parallel efforts to regulate the industry.

The sequence of events left some cultivators frustrated during the meeting’s lunch break. Bill Wilson, of Frogtown Farm in Angels Camp, acknowledged the change in regulatory stance Tuesday. He said many farmers believe the county will attempt to regulate the marijuana industry if Measure B is voted down.

“(The supervisors said) ‘We don’t give a crap. We’ll ban anyway,’ ” Wilson said. “It makes no difference what we do to vote with the three (Tofanelli, Clapp and Mills, who he characterized as the anti-regulation camp).”

After the agenda topic, Clapp reaffirmed his stance. Tofanelli said a vote against Measure B wouldn’t represent a decision by the people. He acknowledged it could be a vote against the initiative. Ultimately when asked about intentions to attempt to regulate the industry if the county residents votes down the measure, he deferred all questions about the topic until after May 2.

For now, the county is working on a ban initiative, Stedfeld said during the meeting. The county-prepared document is supposed to go public at the end of the month. It is expected to be in effect by the time of the vote.

The ad hoc committee will sunset on June 13. They will report back to the Board of Supervisors every other week or variably. Garamendi, whose district represents 70 percent of the farms, said he’s already been getting ideas about parcel size, lighting and more.

Wilson said he was fearful if a ban goes into effect after June 1 a majority of farmers would be taxed before the industry is eliminated. Measure C, which passed in November, charges registered cultivators $2 per square foot of canopy space.

The first payment installments are due in June. The tax was expected to bring in between $15 million and $20 million a year. It goes away if a ban is imposed.