$1 million grant to fund tech, youth programs
A portion of California’s cannabis excise tax will be used to mitigate the negative impacts of the legal cannabis industry
Nevada City’s annual operating budget will receive a 7% boost through funds collected through California’s statewide cannabis excise tax.
Nevada City’s 2019-20 budget shows that the city collected a total of $4.8 million through various taxes and fees. Over the next three years, the city will improve its technological infrastructure, youth programming and law enforcement infrastructure with a $1 million grant through the Board of State and Community Corrections.
The council is expected to approve receipt of the grant at its Tuesday meeting. Fund distribution won’t happen until June.
Nevada City Councilman and grant writer Doug Fleming said the community corrections board created the Cannabis Health, Safety and Compliance Project grant to develop a safe, sustainable and equitable cannabis industry and mitigate the potential negative impacts on the region’s youth and the environment.
The grant parameters required 10% of the funds be spent on youth-focused services, ultimately meant to discourage underage cannabis consumption.
Fleming said the grant he drafted allots 40% of the awarded grant to Nevada City youth by supporting law enforcement’s community policing efforts, educational programming on cannabis and updating outdated technology.
According to Fleming, one school administrator told him that the only time he witnesses police on campus is when one of his students is in trouble.
“They’d like to see a positive role model of police to help kids that are struggling at home or at school,” Fleming said, adding that a woman might best be fit for the role in order to connect with students on a personal basis about their lives at home.
Fleming, one of the few African American leaders in Nevada County, said although the Nevada City Police Department has faced scrutiny in the recent months, in particular for the way the department handled the Aug. 9 Black Lives Matter protest, he hopes the new school resource officer hire is “a step in the right direction.”
Fleming said the officer would be oriented around the community policing philosophy — which focuses on building positive relationships over punitive ones — and trained to identify self-destructive behaviors and act through appropriate intervention techniques.
Seven Hills Principal Sam Schug requested the grant pay for vape detectors to be installed in the school restrooms. Fleming said.
Fleming said he worked with Seven Hills Middle School administrators and Granite Wellness Centers to design a cannabis education program that informs adolescents about the negative impact of consuming cannabis during their development.
“Even though I support pro-cannabis policies, I don’t want my kid thinking that it’s OK,” said Fleming, who is also the father of a fifth grader. “I let him understand what it does to a growing mind, to a growing body — it’s not something that is harmless.”
Fleming said a portion of the funding will go to rehabilitation treatment for cannabis, if necessary, but serious narcotics as well. The funding also supports youth referrals to Bright Futures for Youth.
UP TO DATE
Fleming said $260,000 of the $1 million total is intended for equipment and fixed assets — including a new computer operating system, phone system, noxious fume detectors, video cameras and laptop computers for Nevada City police.
Fleming said the technology is largely intended to help the city stay up to date on permitting requests and ensure cannabis compliance.
Nevada City police requested video cameras be installed at the entry and exit points in town, Fleming said.
“They want video monitors at the egresses and ingresses in town,” Fleming explained. “Those are $5,000 a pop.”
Fleming said he and his wife drafted the grant pro bono through their MD&M consulting company application, which has secured a total of $9 million for the city in a five-year time period.
Nevada City Council member Duane Strawser said the grant money was years in the making, but he was “thrilled” for the much needed financial support.
Strawser said he was excited for money to be put to use to mitigate youth’s improper cannabis use, but also to offset the strain endured by city staff since the legalization of recreational cannabis.
“We have such limited staff in the engineering and planning departments, I do hope a lot can be used to update hardware program to support them,” Strawser said.
Strawser said because of the additional issues city staff has dealt with as the cannabis industry has grown in the region, he feels like the city is “breaking even.”
Diana Gamzon, executive director for the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance, said the grant is in line with her nonprofit’s community-oriented mission.
“We are encouraged to see that the anticipated funds from Proposition 64, to help prevent youth access and promote public safety, have come through to benefit the community,” Gamzon said.
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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