Regulating commercial cannabis and deciding what a possible second rendition will look like in Calaveras County is a task coming back to the Board of Supervisors, who directed county staff Tuesday to once again develop a regulatory ordinance.
The move represents a 180-degree turn from where the county’s elected leaders were a year and a month ago, when their split 3-2 vote instituted a ban on commercial cannabis activities in Calaveras County. November’s election results changed the makeup of the Board of Supervisors and the new board is just now beginning to grapple with the most divisive issue in the county’s recent history.
As of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors and county staff were on recess and planned to come back to keep discussing details until after sundown. As of 5:45 p.m., the board was discussing continuing their work at future study sessions and at possible night meetings.
Four supervisors, Jack Garamendi, District 2, Merita Callaway, District 3, Dennis Mills, District 4, and Ben Stopper, District 5, polled 3-1 on moving forward on a regulatory ordinance late Tuesday afternoon, with Mills opposed. Gary Tofanelli, District 1, was not present for the poll.
Garamendi, Callaway, Mills and Stopper spent time hashing out how large grows could be, what growers will be allowed to apply, and permitting processes with Peter Maurer, the county planning director. They decided to leave questions about distribution for a later discussion.
The decision Tuesday afternoon is another turning point in the Calaveras County cannabis debate, and it came at the end of a public hearing that consumed most of the day in San Andreas. Pro-ban people and pro-regulation people took turns making their points. One man was ejected from the hearing when he referred to unregistered cannabis growers in his neighborhood as “illegals,” “wetbacks,” “Vietnamese,” and “gooks.”
“We suggest you look at the big picture,” Maurer said near the end of the hearing, before Garamendi polled the board. “Do you want to look at regulation, or do you want to stay with the ban?”
Maurer continued asking the board for input on details including personal grows, personal use, and whether they would be allowed indoors or outdoors. They also talked about whether to regulate processing and a possible centralized processing facility for trimming, drying and cutting, not growing.
Earlier, Trevor Wittke, executive director of the Calaveras Cannabis Alliance, dismissed pro-ban arguments that county voters are opposed to regulating cannabis, by pointing out that three pro-ban candidates — for sheriff and two supervisor positions — were defeated in Calaveras County elections in November by candidates who were on the record supporting revisitation to the question of regulating commercial cannabis.
“Ben Stopper won his district, Merita Callaway won her district, Sheriff DiBasilio won his election,” Wittke said. “They all defeated pro-ban candidates. Sixty percent of the county voted to support what you are doing today, considering regulation.”
Ron Huckabee, a resident of Valley Springs, said he and other people were sold a bill of goods on how much revenue commercial cannabis would bring to county coffers. He said it sounded like some supervisors were already decided, because some were words like “when” not “if.” Huckabee said the whole of Calaveras County is a watershed, and he doesn’t want illegal growers putting chemicals into that watershed.
Al Segalla with the the Calaveras County Taxpayers Association told the board the county should consider sticking to state regulations, to simplify and reduce redundancies in local and state rules, policies and laws that growers have to follow.
“Seems like why reinvent the wheel,” Segalla said. “Let the state take care of regulation and we can focus on land use and zoning. Let the state regulate it and be done with it.”
Vicky Reinke, a resident of Angels Camp and District 4, said the board needs to take into account impacts on citizens who make Calaveras County their home, “the citizens who voted you in, the crime, the guns, the dogs, the traffic, the water issues, these were real.”
Earlier in the day, Maurer called on multiple department heads — including the sheriff’s office, public works, building and safety, code enforcement, integrated waste, the auditor-controller and treasurer — to summarize how their staff dealt with a previous urgency ordinance, which temporarily legalized commercial cultivation from May 2016 to January 2018, and what each department would need going forward toward regulation again.
Barbara Sullivan, the county treasurer-tax collector, estimated she collected $13.3 million in taxes from registered growers while commercial cannabis was allowed from May 2016 to January 2018.
Marijuana cultivation presents numerous land mines that can cause death to firefighters, Joel Schwartz with Copperopolis Fire Protection District and the Calaveras County Fire Chiefs Association told the Board of Supervisors, with hazards including fertilizers, chemicals, overloaded electrical circuits, entanglement issues, accessibility, explosion conditions, automatic sprinklers, exhaust fumes and flammable liquid extraction systems.
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.