Facing the likelihood of adding to multiple cannabis-related legal moves already initiated against Calaveras County, the Board of Supervisors took no action Tuesday evening on a resolution to give voters a chance to choose between banning or regulating cannabis cultivation and related commercial activities.
“We had time to look at this, and my mind is this is one of the things we considered,” Gary Tofanelli, District 1 supervisor and chairman of the board, said at the end of an all-day meeting. “We’d have to defend it. I don’t think it was best for the county.”
Any initiative put on the ballot by the board would put the board and the county in the position of having to legally defend the outcome if challenged, whatever voters chose, said Jack Garamendi, District 2 supervisor.
“We’re already going to have plenty to defend with the ban,” Garamendi said.
He was right. Even before the five supervisors, who include Michael Oliveira, District 3; Dennis Mills, District 4; and Clyde Clapp, District 5; took no action on the most contentious, divisive issue in Calaveras County, the elected board and the county faced new legal challenges from registered growers angered by a ban the panel approved on Jan. 10.
Trevor Wittke with the Calaveras Cannabis Alliance said Mills and Clapp should recuse themselves from voting on cannabis laws Tuesday because they have conflicts of interest.
Wittke presented paperwork to County Counsel Megan Stedtfeld, who said she does not represent individual supervisors, especially when it comes to Fair Political Practices Commission complaints, which is how she described Wittke’s actions.
The Calaveras Cannabis Legal Defense Fund, representing registered growers, took steps Tuesday including distribution of three Brown Act "Cure & Correct" letters to put the county on notice of alleged violations by the Board of Supervisors, and to start the process of litigating the violations.
In addition, the Calaveras Cannabis Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the Board of Supervisors’ certification of an environmental impact report that accompanied the Jan. 10 ban ordinance.
Lawyers with the Calaveras Cannabis Legal Defense Fund argue that cannabis cultivation has occurred in Calaveras County for many years. The county has lacked resources to enforce land use, zoning and nuisance laws with respect to most cultivation sites, and that has resulted in “substantial environmental harm,” lawyers for registered growers said in court papers filed Tuesday. “The problem was exacerbated by the catastrophic Butte Fire in September 2015, which produced large quantities of inexpensive burned land and, in turn, increased levels of cannabis cultivation.”
The lawyers are challenging Calaveras County, the Board of Supervisors, the county Planning Department and unidentified others. They say the ban ordinance and EIR approved by the board Jan. 10 will have disastrous environmental and economic consequences
for the county and its residents.
Lawyers for registered growers say they will prove the county, the board and planning department violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to fix the EIR’s numerous
deficiencies before they certified it.
Calaveras County, the Board of Supervisors, the county Planning Department and others “fundamentally failed to recognize real-world consequences of adopting and attempting to enforce the Jan. 10 ban ordinance, instead of continuing to carefully regulate the cannabis industry,” the lawyers said.
Tim Lutz, county administrator, and Stedtfeld said the ban ordinance will go into effect March 9. The regulatory program that existed under an urgency ordinance is now winding down, Lutz said. Registered growers will have 90 days from March 9 to wrap up whatever cannabis-related business they still operate in Calaveras County.
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.