The next chapter in Calaveras County’s ongoing debate over whether to legalize commercial pot farming or keep it banned is expected to come back to the elected Board of Supervisors on Oct. 8 and Oct. 15.

They have the help of county lawyers, local prosecutors and the elected sheriff, but the county’s top elected leaders have found that crafting a new ordinance is more difficult than preparing gourmet dishes like pastry-covered Beef Wellington, boeuf Bourguignon, or consommé.

On Wednesday evening at the end of a two-day special meeting, the board voted 3-2 to approve changes they made to the draft regulatory ordinance and bring it back Oct. 15 for expected adoption. The elected supervisors voted this way: Jack Garamendi, District 2, Merita Callaway, District 3, and Ben Stopper, District 5, were in favor. Gary Tofanelli, District 1 and Dennis Mills, District 4, were opposed.

The board also voted 3-2 to table an introduction and reading of a new cannabis background check badge ordinance to be added to county code. That new ordinance will come back to the board on Oct. 8. The vote on the motion to table came with the same three supervisors for it, and the same two opposed.

On Tuesday, Garamendi, Callaway and Stopper voted to approve the creation of a new Division of Cannabis Control, contingent upon adoption of the new regulatory ordinance. Tofanelli and Mills opposed that move also.

Before the supervisors voted Tuesday evening, several pro-ban supporters urged Garamendi, Callaway and Stopper to reconsider their positions on moving forward with regulating commercial cannabis in this rural foothills county of 45,000 still recovering from the devastating 2015 Butte Fire.

Several formerly registered growers and advocates for regulated commercial pot farming countered pro-ban speakers by pointing out Calaveras County needs jobs and tax revenues.

Commercial cannabis has become the most divisive issue in Calaveras County since the Butte Fire burned up 110 square miles, destroyed 921 structures, including 549 homes, 368 outbuildings and four commercial properties, damaged 44 structures, and resulted in two civilian fatalities.

The commercial cannabis debate has driven turnover on the Board of Supervisors, which has seen its pro-pot/pro-ban majority change numerous times in four years since the 2015 Butte Fire. Lawsuits, heated threats of ever more litigation, and efforts to recall elected supervisors have spiced the ongoing controversy as people on both sides of the commercial cannabis issue trade blows.

A ban on commercial cannabis activities remains in effect. A new regulatory ordinance, if approved, would replace the ban.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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