Mendocino County supervisors are poised to finalize a comprehensive medical marijuana cultivation ordinance they hope balances the needs of cannabis growers with those concerned about pot’s impact in their communities.
The board is scheduled Tuesday to adopt an environmental impact statement and introduce the new medical cannabis cultivation ordinance, which creates a pot permitting process overseen by the Mendocino County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office rather than the sheriff’s office.
“It’s been a lengthy and complex process with input from diverse interest groups and members of the public,” said board Chairman John McCowen, who’s been working on the ordinance for more than a year. “No one is getting everything they want but I believe the ordinance provides the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people possible.”
The law limits the amount of cannabis that can be grown outdoors to 10 acres or more, and in large indoor operations to a maximum of 10,000 square feet.
Nurseries can grow small plants in up to 20,000 square feet of space, said acting Agricultural Commissioner Diane Curry. It also addresses issues ranging from guard dogs to water and pesticide use.
The ordinance will be implemented in phases, the first giving existing outdoor medical marijuana farmers a two-year advantage over new growers who have been lining up to start ventures in the famed Emerald Triangle growing region.
Only people who can demonstrate by Dec. 31 they were growing cannabis prior to Jan. 1, 2016, are eligible for permits during the first phase.
New outdoor cannabis farmers are not eligible for county permits until January 2020, when the third phase begins.
In the second phase beginning January 2018, permit requests will be accepted from new cultivators for indoor growing, which will be allowed only in industrial zones.
The rules also give existing farmers two years to move their operations in order to comply with new rules governing locations.
The ordinance includes protections for rangeland and timber harvest land, which many fear could disappear as cannabis farming becomes increasingly widespread. Such land will be prohibited from cultivation use in the future.
During the crafting of the ordinance, growers complained the new rules were too strict while those seeking limits on cultivation said it wasn’t strict enough.
Tim Blake, a cannabis advocate and founder of the Emerald Cup, said he can see it from both perspectives.
“I think it’s a pretty reasonable document,” he said. “I’ve been in politics long enough to know it’s always about compromise.”
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 707-462-6473 or glenda. firstname.lastname@example.org.