Nevada County cannabis community advisory group discusses permitting | SierraSun.com

Nevada County cannabis community advisory group discusses permitting

A look at some medical marijuana.

Members of the county's marijuana community advisory group on Tuesday, July 11, delved into issues of permitting and enforcing cannabis grow regulations, questioning if the county should require permits for small, indoor grows and prohibit nonviolent drug offenders from gaining permits.

The community advisory group, developing recommendations for Nevada County's permanent cultivation ordinance, examined a proposed structure for permitting grows. Much of the proposal mirrors the county's existing permitting process, though county officials suggested added steps for cannabis grows.

"There's going to be a lot of vetting, a lot of paperwork," said Sean Powers, director of the county's Community Development Agency. "It has to be a substantive process."

Powers suggested a permitting process that would require growers to complete paperwork before county officials would perform two site visits of their property. A permit would then be granted if the grower met all requirements, with compliance checks following.

Powers also suggested annual permit renewals.

"We want to get in and we want to regulate this," Powers said.

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Powers also suggested forbidding those with a criminal history of drug activity from obtaining permits, a suggestion some advisory board members opposed.

"Obviously, I don't think it's a good idea," said Forrest Hurd, a medicinal cannabis advocate. "The law was the problem, not their actions."

Mark Schaefer, with the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance, likened the proposed restriction to a "culture war."

Don Bessee, executive director of the Northern California chapter of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said people with felony criminal histories shouldn't be allowed permits.

Advisory panelists also discussed how county officials would enforce the ordinance. Rich Johansen asked about the county's enforcement budget, which officials haven't yet finalized.

"There's a lot of people out there," Lee French said. "I don't know how we're going to be able to staff up."

Daniel Iacofano, principal of MIG, Inc., said other California counties use fees to recover the costs associated with the enforcement of cannabis regulations.

Concerning which grows need permits, Jonathan Collier, with the local cannabis alliance, said permitting small, personal grows would become burdensome. He compared it to a personal home brew that requires no permit, adding that if it grew into a commercial business then regulations would be required.

Rosemary Metrailer said her concerns focused on differences between personal and commercial grows. She said the group's recommendations should avoid the punitive and instead be practical and supportive.

Bessee argued that grows wildly out of compliance need punitive action.

"You've got seven plants, big deal," Bessee said. "You've got 7,000, I want them to feel the pain."

Tuesday's meeting was the fourth of eight scheduled for the advisory group. It's expected to write its grow ordinance recommendations around year's end. Supervisors have said they want the new ordinance in place by March.

To contact reporter Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.