San Andreas, CA — Public hearings in Calaveras carried over into Day Two with a bombshell from a pro-cannabis grow ban supervisor and some snail-pace progress on a new dispensary ordinance.
In a nutshell, Tuesday’s Calaveras County supervisors’ meeting, which was to be largely devoted to presentations from county officials and public comments ahead of a possible board vote to enact an outright ban on commercial cannabis grows and potential adoption of a more restrictive ordinance on dispensaries, turned into a prolonged public session.
Tinged with tension it even teetered towards becoming a circus when a local grower, accompanying herself on a guitar, delivered her opinions in a musical ditty as the county’s two most vocal pro-ban supervisors, District 4 Supervisor Dennis Mills and District 5 Supervisor Clyde Clapp, briefly exited the meeting in apparent disgust. While dozens turned out to speak for and against an outright ban, several people who described themselves as not supporting marijuana spoke from standpoints favoring an ordinance that focused on rigorous regulation rather than outlawing all commercial grows.
Emerging Report Calls For Fed Intervention
While the board planned to continue its business on the potential ban or regulation ordinance into today, Mills kicked off the meeting by introducing a 60-page report on the environmental impacts of cannabis growing, illuminating issues, concerns and plans for a federal call to action. After receiving it the board voted 4-1 to table further discussion until next week’s meeting on Oct. 24 so the supervisors and staff would have time to review it and also provide a link on the county website for the public to view it.
The meeting proceeded to hear county staff and public comment on the currently proposed medical marijuana dispensary ordinance, which proposes to cap the number of dispensaries in the county to five as well as place more restrictions on them.
Sheriff Rick DiBasilio notably spoke up to insist on modifying the language in several areas; among these are those relating to the enablement of full FBI background checks and any other requirement that might potentially involve criminal prosecution. This tipped off a lengthy session of proposed edits, followed by board polls to provide staff with detailed direction on how to incorporate the amendments after which the board unanimously voted around 3:30 p.m. to continue the matter until the new draft is ready.
‘Cultivating Disaster’ Report Details
Clarke Broadcasting, which received a copy of Mills’ report, reviewed the executive summary of the document, which he commissioned through The Communications Institute (TCI), a public policy focused consortium founded by Copperopolis resident Jack Cox, former journalist and chief of staff for U.S. Congressman Barry Goldwater, Jr.
Entitled Cultivating Disaster: The Effect of Cannabis Cultivation on the Environment of Calaveras County, it details Calaveras County’s dramatic increase in the cannabis cultivation and approval by the previous board of supervisors to permit temporary cultivation of medical marijuana under an urgency ordinance. It calls the move “a huge mistake” due to insufficient understanding of its environmental, health, and public welfare and safety impacts and particularly emphasizes the influence of non-approved chemicals being used that flow from grow sites on sloping foothills into the watershed.
Among the highlighted key findings, the report quotes analysis from experts at Stanford, Yale, Scientific America, University of California, and Harvard of how marijuana cultivation has damaged the environment in Northern California. Other bullet points include that: the scope and depth of the environmental impacts in Calaveras County is not understood; numerous citations for environmental violations have been issued; dangerous or inappropriate chemicals are in use; cannabis growers are not subject to strict environmental requirements placed on farmers; independent water testing of local ponds has turned up deadly cyanobacteria; cleanup costs could range from “millions to billions.”
In addition to an outright ban on open and indoor cannabis grow facilities, the report’s recommendations call for declaring an emergency and creating a task force of federal, state, regional and local to eradicate grows, clean up the environment and deal with law enforcement and safety issues. It also recommends the Environmental Protection Agency undertake an ecological damage impacts on water quality study and propose a watershed protection and cleanup program; that the Drug Enforcement Agency evaluate grants and manpower to support eradication; that full prosecution and restitution funding for cleanup be sought in tandem by the County District Attorney’s Office work with US and State Attorney Generals. You can find the report by clicking here.