Community advisory group on cannabis members take look back on the process | TheUnion.com

Community advisory group on cannabis members take look back on the process

The work of the community advisory group, a citizen's panel created to made recommendations for a new cannabis ordinance, is done.

The 16-member group, which met in May for the first time, held its final meeting last week. Composed of people from different backgrounds and holding beliefs about marijuana, the panel cobbled together draft recommendations that will proceed Jan. 9 to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.

Those recommendations include proposed zoning restrictions for grows, grow sizes and property line setbacks.

Forrest Hurd, a member of the group and advocate for medicinal cannabis, said the proposed recommendations are much closer to what he wants than he initially thought possible.

"I'm very optimistic with the progress that we've made," he said. "I hope people understand how much work and time has gone into getting us to this point."

The panel met 10 times over about seven months, gathering for three hours at each meeting. Late in the process they extended their meeting time by 30 minutes.

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Hurd said he wants supervisors to change the recommendation for non-remuneration — growing for medicinal patients. Current draft recommendations call for allowing 20 plants in a 500-square-foot area for a qualified patient.

The 500-square-foot limitation should change, Hurd said, adding that he'll attend the Jan. 9 supervisor meeting.

Rich Johansen, another group member, works in agriculture, though he doesn't grow cannabis. He said his service on the panel taught him about the industry and showed him that it can work here.

"Overall, I thought it was a very valuable experience and process," he said. "I thought we came together very well. Just in general, I think we gave supervisors quite a lot to work with."

Johansen said he wants to give a chance to growers who want to obey the rules, and have authorities enforce the ordinance against those who don't. He also wants medicinal cannabis available and affordable.

"I'm positive about the process and I'm optimistic about the outcome," Johansen said.

Tom Cross, also a panelist, praised the process, saying it helped focus aspects of the draft ordinance. It also created a community dialogue that existed in group meetings and The Union.

"I think it was kind of healthy for the community to have this forum," Cross said.

Cross was the first panelist to publicly advocate for a blue ribbon commission — a smaller group that would continue to work on regulations that will form the new ordinance. The county's marijuana facilitator, MIG Inc., echoed Cross' idea in a formal recommendation to supervisors, though officials have made no decision about that commission.

Cross said he'd like the county to usher some growers through the new regulations once they're in place, enacting a pilot program for the first group that wants to become legal.

"I never realized the scale of the industry in Nevada County," he said.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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