Calaveras County releases new draft of urgency marijuana ordinance

A recent ariel of a marijuana grow outside of Mountain Ranch

The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday is scheduled to make a second attempt at approving an urgency ordinance to rein in the impacts of the county’s medical marijuana industry.

The board did not have enough votes to meet a four-fifths requirement for passage of an urgency ordinance at its April 12 meeting, and a similar measure failed.

Concerns raised during hours of testimony at the April 12 meeting prompted a board subcommittee made up of Chairman Cliff Edson and Supervisor Debbie Ponte to work with county staff members to revise the urgency ordinance.

Among the changes are that the date in which a moratorium would go into effect would be Tuesday, rather than the originally proposed Feb. 16, and that commercial growers would pay a $5,000 fee to register their operations. That fee, in turn, would fund enforcement efforts including new sheriff deputies who, presumably, could help eradicate growers who don’t comply with the rules.

The urgency ordinance will only be in effect until the county government can adopt a permanent regulation for marijuana production. That is expected to take six months to a year because of environmental studies that must be conducted first.

The proposed urgency ordinance includes language that would create a registration process so cannabis cultivators can participate in the coming state program for commercial growers, establish fees for personal and commercial cultivation, impose standards for placement of cultivation sites and for public health and safety. It allows those who have made “substantial” investments by Tuesday to continue production and otherwise halts further expansion of the industry until a permanent ordinance is adopted.

Completed registration is required by June 30, according the proposed law, and garden sites have to be in zones where medical cannabis cultivation is permitted.

“I hope we can get the necessary votes for this,” Edson said at a political event on May 5. “We need this to protect people.”

The California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act became law on Jan. 1. It requires that in order to get a state license for medical marijuana cultivation and commerce, growers must comply with both state and local laws.

The proposed fees would include a $100 charge for personal-use growers, $200 for caregivers and $5,000 for commercial cultivators. According to a staff summary of the proposed ordinance, there are “many hundreds of commercial cultivators in the county who are not being regulated.”

“If only 200 of the growers in our county apply in time to meet this initial registration deadline, that would provide the county $1 million. This revenue would be sufficient to hire two additional sheriff’s deputies, two code enforcement officers, vehicles for their respective use, and additional staff in other departments whose work is necessary to administer the program,” according to the report summary by county planning staff.

The new draft resembles earlier drafts in many ways. It bans the largest indoor gardens that would otherwise be allowed under state licenses and bans all commercial gardens in single family residential zones. Commercial gardens are allowed in agricultural, rural residential and unclassified zones.

The draft ordinance requires a permanent dwelling on any property with a cannabis garden and generally bans camping on marijuana farms, although there is an exemption to allow people in or near the Butte Fire burn area to apply for temporary permits to live in recreational vehicles. Such recreational vehicles are required to have approved water, sewer and power connections.

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