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Calaveras In No Rush To Push Cannabis Tourism

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San Andreas, CA — Leaders in Calaveras County expressed that they want to take a slow approach when it comes to changing any existing rules that would open the door to becoming a hub for cannabis tourism.

The county’s Planning Director Gabriel Elliott led a presentation to the board of supervisors yesterday with the goal of gauging interest on whether there is a desire to change existing regulations that would allow the cannabis industry to hold events, and things like farm tours, as a way for the businesses to boost revenues, and in turn, potential tax dollars. Cannabis is currently not considered an agricultural product in the county, so agritourism opportunities allowed by other types of farms and wineries are not legal under existing rules. Any changes would spur somewhat of a drawn-out process as there are various codes and ordinances related to cannabis that may need to be reviewed and altered.

Supervisor Jack Garamendi ended up being the lone board member to argue in favor of pushing the issue further, including a desire to change the existing regulations to make cannabis an agricultural product. He stated, “We have to be careful about putting up barriers for entrepreneurs. We ought to remove some of the regulations, and make it simpler.” He continued, “We’re picking winners and losers, and we need to look at removing obstacles.”

During the discussion, new board member Martin Huberty, who leads the Calaveras Visitors Bureau, was the first to voice in opposition. He argued, “I don’t think it merits the amount of angst that it puts out in the community. In the four years that I have been at the Visitors Bureau, I don’t think that I have had one call about cannabis tourism. And I just don’t think that, ultimately, it is something that we need to deal with right now.”

Supervisor Garamendi countered that he has had people reach out to him, arguing in favor of it.

Supervisor Benjamin Stopper said he falls somewhere in between Supervisors Garamendi and Huberty.

Stopper said, “I’m not in a rush to change to a higher level with so many gray areas and potential unforeseen events. It may be something to consider in the future, but I think we are a little ahead of ourselves to push something like this. I think we need to take our time and make sure we are doing the right thing.”

Stopper also mentioned the state’s struggles in finding the best way to regulate the industry as a reason to take a slow approach.

Interim CAO Craig Pedro expressed that it was a good conversation to have, but he also stressed that there are various other projects underway in the Planning Department, and developing rules regarding cannabis ecotourism could delay other high-priority efforts.

Supervisors Amanda Folendorf and Gary Tofanelli also voiced some concerns, and were more in line with Stopper and Huberty, than Garamendi. Folendorf alluded to there being existing issues surrounding agritourism that may need to be addressed, as she hears complaints from wineries about the county not allowing them to do certain things.

Toward the end of the conservation, Supervisor Garamendi stated, “After seven years (in office), I can count to four,” acknowledging there are not enough votes to push the item any further at this time.

A handful of audience members also weighed in, speaking both pros and cons, with some of those in favor being members of the cannabis industry.