Marijuana citizen’s panel gets direction from Nevada County Board of Supervisors | SierraSun.com

Marijuana citizen’s panel gets direction from Nevada County Board of Supervisors

Members of the public and the county's marijuana community advisory group on Tuesday, Sept. 5, filled the chambers of the Nevada County supervisors for a special meeting. Supervisors and advisory panelists discussed the next steps for developing a permanent cannabis grow ordinance.

Nevada County supervisors on Tuesday, Sept. 5, assigned its marijuana citizen’s panel specific topics to focus on when making recommendations for a permanent grow ordinance; a task that potentially could increase the number of meetings the advisory group will hold.

Supervisors unanimously approved changes to a list of priorities they want the community advisory group to tackle. After hearing from advisory panelists in a three-hour meeting, supervisors directed them to consider permitting requirements, commercial activity and several other topics — which include grow restrictions, nuisance mitigation and a possible transition period for growers to become compliant — as high priorities.

Some members of the advisory group, scheduled for their seventh meeting on Sept. 12, said they need more than the initial eight meetings planned. Sean Powers, director of the county’s Community Development Agency, said supervisors must approve any additional meetings, as it would require a new contract with MIG, Inc., their cannabis consultant.

The two future meetings included in the current $115,260 contract will be 3½ hours, not the three hours all previous meetings have lasted.

According to the survey, 54 percent of respondents strongly support retail sales of medicinal marijuana, as opposed to 29 percent for recreational pot.

Now moving away from the informative stage of the process and into its recommendation writing, the advisory panel has a task larger than county staff first envisioned.

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Staff had divided the panelists’ job into two categories. They first would address Priority A items, which include cultivation activities, grow locations, setbacks and nuisance issues.

Second came Priority B items, to be addressed once Priority A was done. That secondary list includes the possibility of limiting permits, requiring permits for grows over six plants and allowing a grace period to become compliant.

County staff would address Priority C items, like commercial activity and permitting requirements.

Supervisor Heidi Hall suggested the advisory group address all items in Priority A and B as a high priority, and include commercial activity and permitting requirements in that group as well. Her motion passed unanimously.

Many panelists advocated for an even larger role, adding that they need more time to discuss the issues and develop recommendations for a permanent grow ordinance.

“We definitely need more time to talk about this,” panelist Pamela Swartz said. “More meetings would be fantastic.”

Panelist Tom Cross advocated for what he called a blue ribbon commission — a smaller body composed of some advisory group and community members to work with county staff once the larger work of the panel is complete.

No decision was made Tuesday on that idea.

SURVEY SAYS

Supervisors on Tuesday also saw partial results from a survey conducted by the National Research Center, Inc.

They’ll see a larger report on the survey at their January workshop. Tuesday’s results focused on cannabis only.

The survey, what was called a scientific sample of 1,800 households, included 545 returned surveys — a 32 percent response rate. Sonya Wytinck, director of research strategies for NRC, called that response high.

According to the survey, 54 percent of respondents strongly support retail sales of medicinal marijuana, as opposed to 29 percent for recreational pot.

“While most do support recreational cannabis, it should be noted that 38 percent strongly oppose it,” Wytinck said.

A total of 54 percent either strongly or somewhat support recreational cannabis. Forty-six percent strongly or somewhat oppose, the survey states.

Forty-one percent strongly oppose a retail cannabis facility in any retail or business center; 47 percent strongly oppose such a facility downtown; and 70 percent strongly oppose in any residential neighborhood.

Hall expressed concerns over the results, as did some advisory board members.

Hall said the results could appear like the community is deciding whether to regulate marijuana, when that decision has been made.

“We are already on that road,” Hall said. “It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be moving forward.”

Others questioned the methods behind the survey. Panelist Mark Schaefer said it appeared the survey questions held a bias. Erin Tarr, another panelist, asked why all county residents didn’t receive the survey.

Wytinck said a survey sent to all Nevada County residents would become cost prohibitive.

Fran Freedle, a former county supervisor who spoke during public comment, said the survey reflected the thoughts of the community and was compiled by a professional company. She argued that those who disparaged the results couldn’t discard them in favor of another because they disagreed.

“I think we’re kind of on the right track now,” said Supervisor Ed Scofield moments before voting on the priorities. “If you need more time, I’m open to that.”