San Andreas, CA — The future of commercial cannabis in Calaveras for now is now completely up to the county supervisors.
As reported here, on Tuesday a ruling was issued by a visiting Calaveras County Superior Court judge in response to a lawsuit by Jeremy Carlson, who owns Calaveras Naturals and operates Little Trees Dispensary in Arnold, over incorrect and misleading wording within the Measure B commercial cannabis ban citizens’ initiative.The court order directed the county elections office to delete the measure from the county’s May 2 special ballot.
Board Chair and District 3 Supervisor Michael Oliveira shares that the supervisors first got word over their regular meeting lunch break. “We were just advised that the ruling had been issued by the court, as it was public information, and there was no discussion whatsoever about it because it was not an agenda-ized item,” he recounts.
Time To Ping The Public Again?
“Personally, I would have liked to have seen it go to the people but unfortunately, it did not happen that way,” Oliveira opines. He adds, “Pending any appeals, I do not know if that is coming or not, it is something that the board of supervisors are going to have to deal with now — and I am going out to my constituents …to find out their views or positions…once again, and using that information to make a basis for my decision.”
District 4 Supervisor Dennis Mills concurs at least as far as the removal of voter input is concerned. He also points out, “Quite simply put, citizens’ initiatives are exactly that. They are not written by fancy lawyers and sometimes they do not get all the verbiage right, nor do they understand why the verbiage is important.”
As far as District 2 Supervisor Jack Garamendi is concerned, “I have always believed that the board of supervisors is the place to do [the work]. It is a land use and environmental health and public health issue, and I believe that the board will come together…and figure out how to move forward.”
Garamendi: Move Forward With Regulation
Continuing, Garamendi emphasizes, “We have gained a lot of experience over the last year on how to manage grows…what works and what does not and hopefully, we can take some of those lessons and apply them to future regulations. As I talk with other counties throughout the state that are working on similar regulations, I usually ask them ‘what are you doing’ and they say ‘we are watching you’.”
He stresses, “We are a year ahead of where a lot of other counties are and so we have learned a lot…and hopefully we will find a way to apply [the knowledge] to a reasonable and thoughtful regulation that will be able to fund enforcement and protect our public.”
Offering a very different view, Mills clearly believes that, with the non-passage last fall of the Measure D initiative that would have ushered in local rules allowing for a regulated full-fledged medical marijuana industry, his district at least has already weighed in that most of its constituents definitely do not want commercial cannabis in Calaveras.
Mills Plus Two: Bucking For A Ban Roll Out
Back on Feb. 14 Mills cast the deciding vote that allowed the county’s urgency ordinance to remain in effect for another year rather than leave Calaveras in a regulatory and enforcement quagmire.
At the same meeting, he generated a three-vote bloc towards a supervisors’ ban with two other supervisors, Gary Tofenelli and Clyde Clapp of Districts 1 and 5, who, like Mills, largely ran and won their seats last fall by promising to come down on commercial cannabis. With that vote the supervisors effectively directed staff to draft a ban ordinance that would be compliant with state laws under Prop 64 and Prop 215.
For him, Mills says, it largely comes down to property rights to owners’ full enjoyment of the full use of their parcel and to be justly compensated for infringements, along with the county’s responsibility to properly manage its jurisdiction over local land use and zoning.
Emphasis On Landowner, Neighbor Issues
“In the passage of the urgency ordinance the property owners were never given a voice or an opportunity for their impacts to be mitigated — and it turned into a free-for-all,” he states. “Where we are having our greatest issues is in the residential neighborhoods and zones where people are just too close to each other and it is creating conflict.”
Mills says with the draft now complete and EIR process about to start — allowing for time to clear the planning commission and final board approval — the supervisors’ ban could be in place by June or July. As it stands the current version does not allow for any commercial grows. If the supervisors’ ban ultimately carries, all noncompliant grows would then have 90 days to cease and desist. Mills maintains once the ban is in place the possibility of regulated operations can be discussed with the ability of the board to amend its ordinance as it might decide, down the line.
Mills and Garamendi, who are assigned to the board’s recently formed two-member cannabis ad hoc committee, have not yet met. Formed to collect information and ideas submitted by the community to the planning department, Garamendi says his hope is to move it to become something the whole board participates in, enabling public discussion and interaction with staff and other agencies involved in cannabis grow regulation.
Ad Hoc Committee A ‘Back Room’?
“I do not think that this board or our public has any interest in having a back room deal cut,” he states. In the meantime, while clearly imperfect, Garamendi maintains the urgency ordinance continues to provide regulation and stability.
Mills still sees the committee’s role as one of a clearinghouse for information and ideas as the county ponders potential future regulations. Some examples, he states, “We can look at the pros and cons…what are the unintended consequences…who else is impacted and how does this affect the neighborhood? If [the input and discussion] means the ban ordinance is adjusted in some way, it is a supervisors’ ordinance — and we would have the right to make adjustments to it — if we can get the consensus of three votes to do that.”
As an afterthought Mills adds, “We can even bring that to the voters next November if we want to go that route.” Skipping a beat, he offers an understatement as a coda: “As you can see there are a lot of moving parts here.”