Marijuana community advisory group enters recommendation phase
Nevada County’s marijuana community advisory group tried to find consensus on several aspects of cannabis cultivation on Tuesday, Sept. 12, digging into a discussion that’s expected to continue at their final meeting next month.
Members of the citizen’s panel — developing recommendations for the county’s permanent cultivation ordinance — delved into whether the board of supervisors should forbid residential grows, maintain setbacks for grow sites and designate certain spots where someone could have a 5,000-square-foot grow.
The advisory group now is scheduled to meet Oct. 10 for the eighth and final time, when they’ll continue creating recommendations. It’s possible the advisory board could add meetings beyond their eighth, though that would require supervisor approval.
Once the recommendations are written and handed to the county, staff will craft a draft ordinance.
“We are making progress toward common ground,” said Daniel Iacofano, CEO of MIG, Inc. — the county’s cannabis consultant.
Tuesday was the first time the advisory group focused entirely on working toward a consensus on aspects of cannabis cultivation, including grow locations and commercial activity, both of which remain topics of concern for the 16-member panel.
Panelist Mark Schaefer, on the executive committee of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance, said that if a grow is mitigated, businesses should be allowed at a home.
“It’s the American dream,” Schaefer said.
Panelist Don Bessee, executive director of the Northern California chapter of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, argued that buying a home also is part of the American dream. Those buying into those neighborhoods, even those purchasing into a residential agriculture zone, expect it will have no businesses in it.
“I think we have to look at parcel size,” panelist Erin Tarr said.
Panelists also discussed whether people should be allowed grows in residential areas versus agricultural zones. Panelists found little agreement about residential grows, differing on their location based on the density of the area.
Pamela Swartz, a panelist, said she knows of people who can’t enjoy a meal outdoors or leave their windows open at night because of the smell.
“I can’t support it in any of the residential zones,” panelist Michael Mastrodonato said.
The advisory panel also tackled the question of setbacks for grows, discussing how many feet should separate a grow from schools, churches and bus stops.
Many panelists argued bus stops shouldn’t be included.
Schaefer said bus stop locations can change. He wants to see no business shutter because of that change.
“You start canceling out whole entire neighborhoods,” said Forrest Hurd, an advocate for medicinal cannabis, about the inclusion of bus stops. “It’s something that has to really be looked at.”
Panelists found agreement with some questions posed by MIG as part of Tuesday’s process to develop recommendations for the grow ordinance.
A majority of advisory group members agreed that the county should conform to state water regulations. Most of the panel also supported designating an area for a cannabis testing lab.
Panelist Rich Johansen said the county needed several such labs. Bessee, however, argued the cost of bringing a testing lab to the county could prove cost prohibitive.
“We made some good progress today,” said Sean Powers, director of the county’s Community Development Agency.