Update 4:15 p.m.
Outdoor personal grows, noise from gas-driven and diesel-driven generators, and odors from outdoor grows of as few as six cannabis plants featured this afternoon in Calaveras County Planning Commission deliberations as 40 to 50 people watched and waited, some to have their own voices heard.
The commission is trying to resolve questions and details on a new draft cannabis law before sending it the county Board of Supervisors.
Banning outside personal grows could limit how much state cannabis tax funding Calaveras County could receive, Tim Laddish, District 2 commissioner, said in San Andreas.
“I’m proposing we allow outside personal grows with 500-foot separations from other properties,” Laddish said. “They can grow six plants outdoors out where they have that kind of distance from their neighbors.”
Peter Mauer, the county planning director, reminded the five-member commission that one of the most common complaints county staff deal with is noise from generators.
Lisa Muetterties, District 3 commissioner and commission chair, said, “No one can allow generators 24/7 in a neighborhood. It’s ridiculous. No other industry is allowed to do that. We have had nothing but problems with these generators.”
Odors from outdoor grows and indoor grows have generated plenty of complaints as well. As few as six plants can “stink up a whole neighborhood,” a county resident told commissioners.
Karen Sisk, District 5 commissioner, said she would like to see the new cannabis law limit indoor grows to six plants per residence with required air filtration to eliminate odors.
Laddish said he’d prefer to allow a maximum of up to 18 plants per residence for a primary caregiver who has two patients.
Muetterties later raised the question of why Calaveras County is telling many growers to get out of residential neighborhoods and then requiring them to build houses on their new grow properties.
Maurer said the aim is to reduce camping, people living in shanties and the trashy, cluttered appearance of some grows.
“A permanent residence provides stability for the site,” Maurer said. “We don’t require that anyone lives in the house but the house will be available for the caretaker or operator of the site.”
Muetterties asked why growers who are required to relocate to more rural areas can’t be allowed to build a simple structure with a bathroom and office space instead of a house.
“This is supposed to be about businesses,” Muetterties said. “We’re kicking them out of residential neighborhoods and asking them to build more houses? I’d rather see a shop be built with a septic. I do think somebody should be on the property, but look at vineyards. Some of them do not have homes on them.”
Laddish asked if a trailer with adequate sanitation would be acceptable.
Muetterties said that when she drives through some agricultural areas during harvest time she sees portable bathrooms set out for workers. She asked if that would be acceptable in Calaveras County for cannabis grow sites during harvest.
Julie Moss-Lewis, deputy county counsel, pointed out that local growers in Calaveras County will have to get state permits to have each grow designated an agricultural facility.
Laddish asked if the county will have legal authority to conduct random inspections at cannabis grow sites. Moss-Lewis responded that “reasonable, random inspections are acceptable.”
Addressing tax revenues from registered cannabis growers, Laddish emphasized, “It’s not about money, it’s about how we’re going to deal with the environmental disaster from illegal grows if we don’t tax and regulate registered growers.”
County supervisors Dennis Mills, District 4, and Clyde Clapp, District 5, attended parts of the hearing, observing from audience areas and conferring with constituents outside in a hallway.
Update 1:05 p.m.
Out-of-county testing of cannabis came up in today’s Planning Commission public hearing on a new draft cannabis law in San Andreas.
“Why do they have to do testing out of county anyway?” asked F. Joseph Bechelli, District 1 commissioner.
Lisa Muetterties, District 3 commissioner and commission chair, said the county Board of Supervisors has directed the planning commission to proceed with the assumption of out-of-county testing.
“They’re giving us some crazy direction sometimes,” Bechelli said, drawing laughter and applause from an audience of about 50 people.
The grueling, line-by-line process of tweaking the new draft cannabis law for all of Calaveras County continued as the five-member county planning commission tried to hash out details, including “non-flowering stock” and how performance bonds will or will not be required for regulated grow applicants.
“I think they could keep 10 percent non-flowering,” Tim Laddish, District 2 commissioner, said before noon. “If it starts flowering, they have to throw it out.”
Muetterties asked Laddish if he grows cannabis.
“No, I don’t even smoke,” Laddish responded.
When the subject of performance bonds for grow applicants came up, Bechelli said, “It sounds more and more like we’re going toward big commercial growers.”
Julie Moss-Lewis, deputy county counsel, clarified that the new law may include requirements of performance bonds for cultivators as well as cultivators who remediate a site to grow under new permits.
Peter Maurer, county planning director, asked for commission guidance on the issue of a cap on the number of commercial growers.
“As I understand there will be no cap,” Maurer said.
District 1 Supervisor Gary Tofanelli recommended limiting the number of licenses for commercial growers to 50, Maurer explained later during a break, and the planning commission does not see that limit as viable.
Muetterties, speaking as an individual commissioner and not as the chair, explained, “We voted in the urgency ordinance two years ago and we have 500 applicants pending. They complied and they paid their fees. It would be unfair, and I don’t want to have to pick 50 out of that number.”
When the Planning Commission broke for lunch, Bill McManus with the Committee to Ban Commercial Cultivation in Calaveras County said it’s frustrating trying to keep track of all the minutiae that goes into making a new cannabis law.
“The Tofanelli plan does a very poor job on enforcement and it does a tremendously bad job on environmental protections,” McManus said. “Making law is easy. Making a good law is difficult.”
McManus said the time-consuming process of crafting laws and regulations controlling the legal, limited use and cultivation of marijuana in Calaveras County will take years.
“You are more likely today to get a free ticket on the bullet train in the next two weeks than to see all this, the cannabis issue, resolved in the next five years,” McManus said.
Sandy Meitrott, a Mountain Ranch resident who identifies herself as pro-regulation, said she was the lone non-cultivator and the lone non-county employee to help craft the urgency ordinance adopted in May 2016.
“The part I find most frustrating is the information we have gained through the urgency ordinance process is not being used,” Meitrott said.
Asked for an example, she said, “One of the things we now know is smaller, rural residential parcels were not the best choice to include” in properties where cannabis cultivation could be allowed under the urgency ordinance.
“But at the same time that does not preclude all rural residential properties,” Meitrott said. “Some of the rural residential properties might be better rezoned to agricultural. The concern is tax revenue and the economic viability for the county.”
Update 11 a.m.
Calaveras County Sheriff Rick DiBasilio addressed the county Planning Commission during today’s public hearing on a new draft cannabis law and its revisions, which is intended to replace an urgency ordinance approved in May 2016.
“I want to make sure the planning commission has the same information I’m looking at,” DiBasilio said during a brief break in the hearing, referring to recently-adopted, proposed state regulations that will go into effect Jan. 1. “I want to make sure the planning commission and the board of supervisors are aware of these. The board might make a few tweaks.”
Among the concerns DiBasilio raised were definitions of language in the draft dealing with background checks for grow applicants, grow employees and grow contractors.
“The folks that have criminal backgrounds, they know what they’ve done in the past,” DiBasilio told the planning commission. “Because of the language that’s put in this, some of this information could only be shared with county counsel.”
Julie Moss-Lewis, deputy county counsel, said that anyone working on a grow site will be subject to a background check.
“Any entity that’s involved in this process should be able to deny legally,” DiBasilio said.
The sheriff then focused on terms including “the owner of the property,” “the registrant,” and “physical address.”
“If we have to write a search warrant we are going to need a physical address,” DiBasilio said.
The sheriff said there will be “straw man” applicants who will try to get around the background check process to conceal the identities of “king pin” growers who want to keep their identities and backgrounds concealed.
DiBasilio also said the Sheriff’s Office will have a problem with potted plant requirements because potted marijuana plants will be portable.
Employees and contractors for growers should be required to have photo identification badges so that sheriff’s investigators can keep track of and know who is present at grow sites when law enforcement has to respond, DiBasilio said.
“This is one of the things they do in Colorado and it works great,” DiBasilio said. “For anyone going on site they get an ID badge from us so we know who’s out where we’re on site.”
The sheriff said transportation and shipping manifests and other requirements will help local law enforcement keep track of what vehicles cannabis gets transported in.
Original post 9:21 a.m.
The debate over legalized cannabis and how to regulate or ban it at the local level resumed today as a draft law and its revisions are being discussed by the Calaveras County Planning Commission in San Andreas.
Before a public hearing began at 8:45 a.m., Bill McManus with the Committee to Ban Commercial Cultivation in Calaveras County urged the commission to move on the new law quickly.
“All I’m asking is please try to get this back to the board as soon as possible,” McManus told the commission and commission chair Lisa Muetterties.
More than 35 people were in the audience for today’s hearing by 9 a.m.
It was more than a month ago, on Oct. 24, when District 1 Supervisor Gary Tofanelli said he would go along with a new law allowing for some regulated cannabis activities so long as his demands for strict regulations are met.
County planning staff, county lawyers, and staff with the sheriff, environmental management, building and code enforcement have developed a new draft cannabis ordinance.
It’s 29 pages and it’s color-coded: Black is the original ban ordinance after the October review by the Planning Commission. Red shows regulatory policies recommended by the Planning Commission. Purple shows Tofanelli’s regulatory recommendations. Brown shows staff recommendations.
Some Planning Commission recommendations conflicted with Tofanelli’s recommendations and in those cases staff went with Tofanelli. Planning Department staff say it’s important to note the draft law is still a work in progress.
The five commissioners are F. Joseph Bechelli, Jr. District 1, Timothy Laddish District 2, Lisa Muetterties District 3, Kelly Wooster District 4, Karen Sisk District 5.