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In the weeds: Supervisors plot plan to improve cannabis industry

Plan improves cannabis as good neighbor boosts fiscal outcomes

Members of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors listen to Thursday’s cannabis code compliance presentation from Nevada County staff during their annual goals workshop.
Photo: Elias Funez

 

Nevada County’s commercial cannabis ordinance has existed for almost three years.

That means the county’s Cannabis Code Compliance Program has continued to evolve to support the industry and ensure regulatory accountability.

Code Compliance Manager Jeff Merriman led a session on commercial cannabis Thursday morning from the Gold Miners Inn during the Board of Supervisors’ annual workshop, where it discussed county objectives for the coming year.



Merriman said there are 239 commercial cannabis applications in the pipeline. Of those, 155 are approved, and 68 in review.

“With 16 of those applications in limbo, without proactive action taken by the applicant for over a year,” he said.



The department has worked over the last year to bring innovation to permitting.

However, challenges remain. Among them are a lack of design professionals and contractors to complete projects. This has lengthened the time for people to submit complete applications for review and finish development on their sites in a concise fashion. Also impacting the process are present conditions of an inundated market with substantially reduced price per pound in a more competitive industry.

On the enforcement front, there were 222 complaints received, 170 of those in 2021. Forty-nine cases were unfounded, 78 were unverifiable, and 95 were abated. Deputy Micah Arbaugh noted the Sheriff’s Office conducted over 40 joint task force operations regarding illegal grow sites that resulted in the abatement of 9,500 illicit cannabis plants.

A group of people opposed to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors stands out front of the Gold Miners Inn in Grass Valley, where a three-day workshop with the supervisors is being held. Extra police presence was in the area.
Photo: Elias Funez

UPCOMING CHANGES

Collaboration of multiple cases occurred with county counsel to reach several settlement agreements, including land restoration and securing assessed penalties. Meanwhile, the Code Compliance Division added another compliance officer to confront illegal grows.

Supervisor Dan Miller voiced his support of drones to identify egregious grows, noting that drones are to be used only to counter those without cannabis permits.

Tina Vernon, Nevada County treasurer/tax collector, cited the implementation of a revised methodology from gross receipts to square footage this year has the potential to improve accuracy of reporting, and improved accountability for payment of taxes. It will also help stabilize the overall cannabis budget and reduce market volatility.

Vernon said actual tax revenue in fiscal year 2019-20 was $88,000. It grew to $474,000 in fiscal year 2020-21, with an actual revenue in fiscal year 2021-22 to $121,000, to date.

Also in the works is a tweak to support legal growers while mitigating impacts to the community. A residence requirement allows cultivation on an adjacent parcel under common ownership that has a residence on an adjacent parcel. This allows cultivators to maximize canopy size of crop while meeting an overall residence requirement and addressing concerns about substandard housing.

Members of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors meet at the Gold Miners Inn in Grass Valley during their annual goals workshop Thursday morning.
Photo: Elias Funez

The meeting drew attention from of a group of protesters who have made complaints about mask and vaccine mandates, social distancing and contact tracing.

Dr. Patrick Wagner, a physician whose practice focused on general surgery, attended the session and was ushered into the ballroom while he was not wearing a mask along with 15 others, some who were not in masks. After several minutes of chatting with a deputy, one of the organizers of the meeting told Wagner he had to wear a mask or else return to the lobby and watch the meeting on a video screen. Wagner decided to exit the meeting.

“Of all the people there without masks, they singled me out,” he said. “It was very embarrassing. I’d like an apology from the Board of Supervisors. I’m a physician and I know that there are studies that show that masks don’t work …”

William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at wroller@theunion.com


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