Following several hours of comment – both emotional and measured – by supporters and opponents of a citizen’s initiative to ban commercial cannabis cultivation in Calaveras County, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to schedule a mail-in election May 2, allowing a people’s decision.
Calaveras County Elections Coordinator Robin Glanville said on Wednesday that ballots will be mailed to registered county voters on April 3. They must be postmarked by May 2 to be counted and initial results will be available by May 5.
“We have 30 days to verify the results and report to the Board of Supervisors, but these results usually don’t change drastically,” she said.
Before the supervisors voted to approve the election, expectations were tense on both sides of the issue at the supervisors’ chambers, where every seat was filled and the audience spilled over and packed into the antechamber. A vote to enact the ban was feared by cannabis industry supporters and encouraged by those opposed to commercial cannabis cultivation in Calaveras County.
During a break in the morning parade of public comment, Calaveras Cannabis Alliance Executive Director Caslin Tomaszewski said he was sure that the board would move the ban initiative to a vote, but he was lost in the crowd before he could explain his confidence.
As supervisors, staff and the public settled into the board chamber for discussion and possible action on the ban, District 1 Supervisor Gary Tofanelli and District 4 Supervisor Dennis Mills told members of the press they had received hundreds of emails and phone calls in the preceding week.
“The will of the people has already been accurately assessed,” said ban initiative leader Bill McManus during public comment. “Will you turn your back on tens of thousands of citizens and subject them to the horror and nightmare of another summer of cultivation?”
Former District 4 Supervisor Thomas Tryon told the board he had experience with public option on a cannabis issue when he faced an unsuccessful recall effort. He urged the board to place the ban initiative on the ballot.
“All we are asking for is good government,” he said. “Frankly, a ban is not good governance at all.”
After a long morning of input from the public, each supervisor spoke to the ban issue, and then it came time for a decision: Mills offered a motion to accept the ban initiative and enact it on the spot. A majority vote would have made the initiative county law 10 days later.
Four other supervisors sat stone-faced and mute when the chairman, District 3 Supervisor Michael Oliveira, asked for second. Oliveira announced the motion had died for lack of a second, and although he had earlier admonished the audience in the chamber to refrain from outbursts, the crowd just outside the doors erupted and a loud whoop of approval was audible through the closed doors.
When the motion to accept the ban died, District 2 Supervisor Jack Garamendi made another motion, this time to move the initiative to a vote by the people, coupled with a report from the county auditor on the fiscal impacts of a ban. When Oliveira asked for a second, this time three members of the board sat quiet: Tofanelli, Mills and District 5 Supervisor Clyde Clapp. Garamendi could not second his own motion.
“I second,” said chairman Oliveira. Then he called for a vote and the board passed the motion unanimously.
The supervisors have two meetings scheduled for next Tuesday, Jan. 31. The first is a special meeting at 9 a.m. to discuss the urgency ordinance that is due to expire Feb. 14, and the second, at 6 p.m., is one of the fifth-Tuesday meetings already on the calendar for this year.
The evening agenda includes two action items that may result in their inclusion on the May 2 ballot. One is a resolution to put an appropriations (spending limit) measure before the voters of the Copperopolis Fire Protection District, and the other is to put a special tax measure before the voters of the Copper Cove Rocky Road Community Services District.
A detailed analysis of the background and options available to the board at Tuesday morning’s special meeting and cannabis study session, prepared by Planning Director Peter Maurer, may be found at calaverascountyca.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=1436&Inline=True.