Winters public meeting held on cannabis cultivation in rural Yolo County

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On Tuesday, June 12, Yolo County held the last of public meetings on the new ordinance that has been drafted to regulate cannabis cultivation in non-urban areas.

Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996. Proposition 64, passed in 2016 by 70 percent of Yolo County voters, made cannabis cultivation for recreational use legal in the state. A California State law, passed in 2017, unified state regulations for medical and recreational (adult) use. This law gives freedom to cities and counties to independently develop their own guidelines for marijuana use, within the state framework.

Marijuana is still considered a “controlled substance” with no medical benefit by the federal government.

Yolo County approved an Interim Medical Marijuana Ordinance in early 2016, which is still in effect. This ordinance gives licenses to individuals to grow marijuana commercially. The licenses must be renewed yearly.

However, the Board asked the County to develop a Cannabis Land Use Ordinance (CLUO) that would authorize a permit to grow to a property, not to a person. The process for developing such an ordinance is comprehensive and requires public input at several stages. Winters residents and growers were able to air their opinions and concerns at a planning meeting held in early December, 2017.

Based on those public meetings, Yolo County established a draft CLUO document. This draft document was available for Winters input at the meeting on June 12. The document will be presented to the Yolo County Planning Commission on Thursday, June 14. The CLUO is expected to be finalized a year from now – roughly June 2019, with final action by the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.

Leslie Lindbo, Division Director of Department of Community Services, and Charlie Tschudin, Assistant Planner, conducted the meeting. Angelina Espinosa, Building Permit Technician, took notes on the public input.

A County Business License is required for all cannabis uses except cultivators, nurseries, and processing license holders. All cannabis uses will be required to have a County Cannabis License, that may be a CLUO Permit. Those permits require notification of neighbors about the use of the land.

The CLUO is a comprehensive document. It is concerned with environmental analysis of different aspects of cannabis use, such as manufacturing, processing, laboratory, distribution. It covers zoning, odor, buffer distances, minimum parcel size, relocation and co-location, water use, energy use, lighting, screening, density, citizen advisory committees, infrastructure, signage, personal cultivation and a laundry list use requirements and performance standards, nuisance complaint procedures.

Only a couple of examples of provisions in the draft CLUO will be given. The document is available on the Yolo County website.

Odor control thresholds will be established, as measured with a field olefactometer. The olefactometer is used to set standards for projects such as sewage treatment plants or feed lots. Patrick Trotter, Cannabis Task Force, pointed out that the odor is a problem during the harvest season when the female flowers are in bloom, and emitting terpenes, that give marijuana its distinctive smell. Terpene content can be strain specific, so not all plants emit the same odor level. Marijuana is a six month crop, so harvest can be roughly mid May to June, and again in late September to early October.

Buffer zones were discussed – distances from residences, public parks, licensed day cares, places of worship, schools, rehab facilities, tribal trust lands. The Board of Supervisors will determine buffer distances.

A grower in the audience pointed out that the state allows outdoor growing of industrial hemp, which is a marijuana plant that is used for the fibrous quality of the stems. He said that cross-pollination with hemp could result in male plants that produce seeds, not flowers, and therefore could ruin outdoor grows of female plants needed for the medical and psychotropic use of marijuana. Buffer zones may be needed to protect against cross-pollination that are larger than the 1000 feet buffer zone, currently under consideration.

Bill Biasi, Winters City Council, suggested that the CLUO could consider allowing cities to regulate marijuana cultivation within their sphere of influence, not only within current city limits. He also suggested the idea that the county might want to consider having a Cannabis Zone – a large area specifically set aside for cultivation of marijuana.

The CLUO requires the permittee to “demonstrate availability of adequate energy capacity and compliance with applicable local and regional energy saving goals.” An audience member pointed out that the trend to require indoor growing has an extraordinarily high energy cost in light, humidity, filtration. He said if the push was for indoor growing for legal operations, the expense would tend to shove growers toward the easier direction of growing illegally.

Many other aspects of marijuana cultivation, processing and use were discussed. The CLUO draft is available at https://cal.network/CLUOdraft.

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