Calaveras Supes Still At Odds Over Commercial Cannabis Roll Out
San Andreas, CA – Following a failure to pass an ordinance outlining how Calaveras County will budget and spend to regulate commercial cannabis, one of the nay-voters offered a way forward.
At this week’s board meeting, CAO Al Alt presented the proposed plan, which aimed to set in place the county’s proposed Division of Cannabis Control operating and regulatory fee revenues budgets for the current fiscal year. To pass, the ordinance, required a four-fifths majority.
The county’s decision to replace the current ban on commercial grows became a done deal a few weeks ago with the narrow 3-2 passing of a strict regulatory ordinance after months of revised drafts and much board and public debate. District 1 Supervisor Gary Tofanelli and District 4 Supervisor Dennis Mills unsurprisingly maintained their minority opposition bloc in that vote although both willingly participated in helping hone the rules. The new regulations are now in effect and associated commercial fees go into effect before the end of the year.
Alt, who outlined the plans, maintained without the passage of the ordinance, the enforcement plans, which were developed in coordination with other department heads, could not be executed and that staff time and effort to regulate the cannabis industry would divide staff time and effort among existing and new programs.
Need For More Hands Vs. Still Evident Concerns
As he put it, “The program is very complex. It requires a lot of hands-on the wheel…and to do that right, we need the appropriate staffing and time on task.”
Mills immediately criticized the proposal as a road to nowhere that would subject the county to more lawsuits.
Clearly frustrated, Board Chair and District 2 Supervisor Jack Garamendi defended the plan and equated Mills’ position as something akin to what happens when, starting with a scoop of ice cream, one keeps adding to the order, asking for more and different condiments to be stacked on and then refuses to accept the result, complaining that now the ice cream underneath has melted.
District 3 Supervisor Merita Callaway maintained that since the regulatory ordinance had passed, even though it was by a 3-2 vote, implementation was now up to the board.
Tofanelli, who lamented his position as the potential swing vote, cited a list of issues he had with the ordinance, including what he saw as a potential threat to the county’s General Fund. “I don’t think after the first year when you get going on it you’re going to have enough fees coming in to handle all of the employees that you’ve brought on. It makes it very difficult for me to say that I will fund this program and I understand the weight that’s going to be placed if I don’t vote ‘yes’ for this program on all of the departments and the department heads.”
Swing Vote On A Single Hinge
The tension in the room was palpable as the item proceeded to a roll call vote, during which District 5 Supervisor Benjamin Stopper silently debated for several seconds before affirming his support. Attempting to neutralize his obvious disappointment with the 3-2 turnout, Garamendi adjourned the board for a break and a continued closed session during which the board continued its scheduled performance evaluation of Alt. When the board reconvened, there was no action to report.
It was almost at the very end of the meeting after board member announcements, that Tofanelli solemnly asked for a board poll on “Item 20,” aka the failed ordinance. “It is a controversial item and did not get a four-fifths vote…I need some more information. I’d like to have a discussion and maybe bring some different views to that item that might garner a four-fifths vote if the board is interested,” he offered.
Stopper readily agreed as Garamendi added, “I imagine it would be Dec. 10 meeting?” Mills chimed in, “Only if I have an opportunity to a substantive review and offer some additional changes to it.” Callaway countered, “As long as it is just dealing with Item 20.”
Tofanelli assured them, “I am not intending something different. I thought I will give my opinions…I am looking to get a four-fifths vote or even a five-vote.” Exhaling slightly, Garamendi gamely replied, “Let’s give it a shot.”
The matter ended with Tofanelli and Mills confirming to meet together or separately with Alt to provide their input ahead of the Dec. 10 meeting during which the item is now set to reappear on the agenda.