Nevada County supervisors approve temporary licenses for commercial medical marijuana grows; issue to return to board on May 22 | SierraSun.com

Nevada County supervisors approve temporary licenses for commercial medical marijuana grows; issue to return to board on May 22

Nevada County growers who meet existing zoning and acreage requirements will get the chance this summer to apply for temporary licenses — a change to local rules that will open the doors to the commercial medical cannabis market.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday decided to implement a temporary license system as county staff continues to craft a permanent draft ordinance. Staff will return May 22 to supervisors with an urgency ordinance to implement the new program. Supervisors won't decide on fees until June, because state law requires a 10-day public notice period on the issue and staff can't meet that requirement this month.

Staff said they potentially could implement the temporary license system on July 1.

"It's access to the legal market and that's huge," said Diana Gamzon, executive director of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance.

The creation of a temporary licensing system is a win for cannabis growers who initially were looking at months of delay. The passage of a permanent grow ordinance won't occur until after the completion of an environmental impact report, which will take months.

The temporary licensing system will operate under the existing marijuana ordinance, not the draft rules still under consideration. The existing rules impose zoning and acreage restrictions, as well as caps on the number of plants.

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Growers must have at least 10 acres to grow outside. The maximum of 25 plants is allowed on over 20 acres.

Jonathan Collier, on the cannabis alliance's executive board, said growers who have existing business relationships and product will benefit from the temporary license. Others might not do as well, though he emphasized the complexity of the situation makes things uncertain.

"We appreciate the effort," Collier said of supervisors. "Hopefully, it won't take too much time out of staffing."

Ordinance

Supervisors at their special-called Tuesday meeting clarified several aspects of the draft ordinance, including a push by some cannabis advocates to allow grows in residential agricultural zones.

The draft ordinance currently prohibits commercial medical grows in those zones. No commercial recreational cultivation is allowed.

Supervisor Heidi Hall suggested examining residential agricultural grows in the environmental impact report, which county officials have said must be written before the permanent ordinance is passed. Other supervisors disagreed, and the suggestion died.

The board opted to remove bus stops as locations that would require a 1,000-foot setback. Churches would require that setback, as would schools, parks, child care centers and youth facilities.

Those growing for medical patients could have a maximum of five qualified patients and a maximum of 500 square feet per patient. Those non-remuneration growers must get a permit and comply with other grow requirements.

Discussing permit limits, supervisors chose to limit a person or entity to three cultivation licenses only. They made no decision on other license types, which don't yet exist in Nevada County.

The board opted against prohibiting firearms on commercial cannabis grows.

Pivoting to personal grows, supervisors agreed on allowing six plants outdoors on agricultural exclusive, general agricultural, forest and timberland production zones, if they're on at least two acres.

Supervisors opposed an online registry for personal growers.

Supervisor Ed Scofield supported the registry, saying some would exceed state law that allows for six plants indoors.

"Why not seven?" Scofield said some growers might consider. "Why not 10? Why not 12? And that's what's been going on."

Hall said enforcement should focus on large grows, not personal ones.

Supervisors made no change to the zoning and acreage recommendations that will be required under the new ordinance.

Under that ordinance commercial medical grows could be on agricultural exclusive, general agricultural and forest zones that meet the requirements. Parcels from over two to five acres can have indoor grows of 500 square feet. No outdoor or mixed-light grows are allowed.

Hall suggested allowing outdoor grows on those parcels, though the suggestion didn't pass.

The draft ordinance calls for parcels from five to 10 acres to have a 2,500-square-foot limit.

Parcels from 10 to 20 acres could have 5,000-square-foot grows. Parcels over 20 acres could have 10,000-square-foot grows — the maximum size allowed in Nevada County.

All grows over five acres could be indoor, outdoor, mixed-light or a combination.

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