Federal funding for illegal cannabis eradication was on the agenda Tuesday when the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors met in San Andreas, and several people came to share their views on pot and taxes and law enforcement and the economy.
Bill Wilson, an outspoken supporter of regulated cannabis cultivation for commercial purposes and husband of a registered grower, spoke shortly before 10 a.m. when cannabis and enforcement of the current ban on cultivation for commercial purposes came up.
“Do we have 500 illegal grows? A thousand illegal grows?” Wilson asked the five elected members of the board. “Code compliance said last at the last meeting there’s ‘a thousand illegal grows’ and they’re going to get 300. So 700 illegal grows will go ahead.”
Bill Wilson, whose wife, Joan Wilson, can no longer legally grow pot for commercial purposes on her fenced, signed 3,000-square-foot outdoor cannabis grow on the 20 acres they own together outside Angels Camp, started to get mad and raised his voice.
“You shut down 507 businesses!” Bill Wilson shouted, referring to the number of registered, legal pot farms that are no longer legally viable under the current ban approved on a split 3-2 vote the Board of Supervisors in January. “Now what about distribution? You need to make sure everyone who grows legally can sell legally!”
When the board split on the ban in January, Dennis Mills, District 4, Clyde Clapp, District 5, and Gary Tofanelli, District 1, voted for the ban. Jack Garamendi, District 2, and Mike Oliveira, District 3, opposed it.
Megan Gonsalves, co-owner of Rolling Hills Bookkeeping, who represented as many 160 clients including 140 pot farmers in Calaveras County, told the Board of Supervisors her business is hurting and she and her husband, Brett Gonsalves, may have to leave Calaveras County.
“Thank you supervisors Toffanelli, Mills and Clapp,” Gonsalves said. “Twenty-seven of our clients are going out of business since your ban. That’s $80,000 in lost revenue. … All you’re going to have left is a bankrupt county.
“You three don’t like new business,” Gonsalves said and turned her remarks toward elections coming up later this year. “I’m really looking forward to November and I really hope you three will be gone.”
Jessica Clofine, a registered grower in Valley Springs, also shared her frustrations with the Board of Supervisors.
“I am not a special interest group,” Clofine said. “I am a resident and a business person. With the ban coming into place, all the product is going to the black market. … At this point it’s directly ignoring a large constituency and a large industry.”
Grower Joan Wilson got up to have her say as well. She asked people listening to set aside 500 tax-paying businesses the county is getting rid of.
“Just drive down Highway 49 and look at all the empty buildings,” Joan Wilson said. “That $13 million that was going to come in annually is going to be gone. You have people in this county who are going to be facing homelessness.”
The Sheriff’s Office had three items on Tuesday’s consent agenda and two of them were pulled for further discussion.
One had to do with asking the board to authorize Sheriff Rick DiBasilio to accept an amendment to a contract with the federal Bureau of Reclamation to exercise an option year from June 1, 2018 to May 31, 2019, not to exceed $159,213 for law enforcement services by the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office at New Melones.
Mike Falvey, a longtime Mountain Ranch resident who recently moved to Mokelumne Hill to get away from pot growers, said he won’t camp at New Melones any more because it’s become a party scene for out-of-county revelers.
“Last time I was there the place was out of control,” Falvey said. “The Bureau of Reclamation should hire their own security. We, the citizens of Calaveras County, need enforcement, not the people who come from Oakland and Manteca to stay up all night and confront people. . . . Our citizens need protection, not a bunch of rowdy drunks from Oakland.”
County resident George Fry also said the Bureau of Reclamation should get their own sworn law enforcement officers, and he said it was “ludicrous we’re even discussing this.”
Capt. Jim Macedo of the Sheriff’s Office told the board the contract amendment is tied to an agreement that goes back several years with the Bureau of Reclamation.
“New Melones is within Calaveras County, so calls for service, we have to respond there anyway,” Macedo said. “They do have park rangers but they’re not recognized as peace officers in California. This is a good grant that does not negatively impact us. You are aware there is a dam there, and we are prepared to deal with Homeland Security issues.”
A deputy or deputies who patrol and respond to calls at New Melones can issue citations and make arrests, Macedo said. “That’s unfortunate about the noise, but you can expect to find people making noise at rural campgrounds everywhere, not just Melones.”
The board approved the contract amendment 5-0.
Illegal cannabis eradication
The other Sheriff’s Office item that got pulled dealt with an amendment to a U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration grant for illegal cannabis eradication from Oct. 1, 2017 through Sept. 30, 2018, increasing the contract value from $45,000 to $75,000.
Tim McDonald, a District 1 voter, asked if the contract was tied to a previous one the sheriff had with the federal Justice Department and DEA. He wanted to know if aircraft used would be for eradications on public lands or private lands.
Bill Wilson said the federal money could not be spent on county eradications.
Macedo said the contract money can be used for eradications on federal and private lands.
“We’ve asked for more funds to work on ensuring compliance with the ban,” Macedo said. “We think it will be useful. Looking forward, we don’t have an accurate sense of what growers are going to do. Move on, or continue to try to cultivate illegally.”
The board voted unanimously to amend the contract with the federal Justice Department and the DEA.
Contact Guy McCarthy at email@example.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.