A date has been set to discuss whether or not to add medical marijuana dispensaries to a proposed cannabis ban being pursued by the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors.
The suggestion came at the end of the most recent Board of Supervisors meeting May 9, when District 4 Supervisor Dennis Mills expressed concern that if supervisors don’t act by the end of the year, the state could end up controlling the future of dispensaries in the county.
Discussions to add all or part of what the medical marijuana ordinance permitted in 2005 to the countywide ban were set for an evening meeting on May 30.
Last month, the Calaveras County Planning Commission released a draft cannabis ban that, if approved, would prohibit every aspect of commercial cannabis cultivation throughout Calaveras County. Missing from the document, however, were medical marijuana dispensaries.
Bill McManus, an activist against commercial cannabis cultivation, questioned why the draft ban excluded dispensaries during public comments at the Board of Supervisors meeting May 9. He said his organization has been talking to “hundreds or thousands” about why the three dispensaries in the county were safe from the ban.
“We’re having a tough time explaining first of all why did you exempt it in a ban when we thought you’d take care of all commercial cultivation?” said McManus May 9. “Second, if you think it’s a good idea to exempt it, give us reasoning.”
The exact intentions of the discussions scheduled for May 30 are unclear. Mills mentioned the need to address policy regarding dispensaries for fear that Calaveras would relinquish authority to shape stipulations to the state.
But the ordinance ratified in 2005, the one Mills said he wants to discuss adding to the proposed ban, already authorizes medical marijuana dispensaries in Calaveras County. No such policy has been enacted to allow adult-use dispensaries in the county.
“The medical regulations already in place in the county are enough to satisfy the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act as well, so if the county restricted recreational sales and left medical untouched, there would be no problems with dispensaries being unregulated (or under state regulations only) come 2018,” said Jeremy Carlson, owner of Little Trees Wellness Collective in Arnold, in an email. “Supervisor Mills claimed that if they didn’t include the medical dispensary regulations in the ban then the state would take over. Logically, it is nonsensical.”
There could be concern that adult-use dispensaries would begin to pop up all over if policy is left unaddressed, Carlson said. State stipulations do not provide zoning requirements.
That could be an easy fix, Carlson said. He said officials only have to adopt the same requirements applied to medical dispensaries for adult-use entities. They’re limited to professional office zones and have to be more than 1,000 feet from sensitive areas like libraries or baseball fields.
“People have scoured the county. There are no other locations available,” Carlson said. “The county won’t rezone a property for a dispensary. We’re essentially locked down to us three.”
Per the ordinance, Carlson said his dispensary is permitted to grow six mature and 12 immature plants per patient in the collective. The plants have to be inside a locked room and inaccessible to the public. He thinks since they’re excluded from the cultivation ban, but others believe they can grow 20,000 plants anywhere.
“We have to grow here at 200-square-feet,” he said. “We’d be hard-pressed to move beyond that.”
Carlson said if the dispensaries are ultimately banned, it might not happen all at once. He said the government will have to be fair because dispensaries have been legal and regulated businesses since 2005. He cited events that transpired during San Diego’s ban that gave dispensaries years to recoup their investments before being closed down.
“We would be expecting that here,” said Carlson, who said receiving a government payout could be another option.
Ultimately, adding dispensaries to the ban would hurt a lot of patients that use marijuana for medicinal purposes, proponents believe. Carlson said he has 2,500 customers and believes the two dispensaries in San Andreas are even more active.
“The nearest dispensaries would be in Modesto or Stockton, however, I wouldn’t expect most people to travel that far,” Carlson said.
It is not known when the proposed countywide cannabis ban will be approved. An environmental impact report is currently circulating for public comments and will continue to do so until June 14. Calaveras officials will respond to each comment after the comment period concludes.
Once all comments have been addressed, a package with the proposed ban will make its way to the Calaveras County Planning Commission. If approved, it would then move to the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors for a vote.
If ratified, it would go into effect within 30 days. Cultivators and others impacted by the ban would then have 90 days to comply with the ban.