Cannabis community advisory group holds final meeting, talks bus stops, setbacks | TheUnion.com

Cannabis community advisory group holds final meeting, talks bus stops, setbacks

Nevada County's citizen marijuana panel spent its final meeting on Tuesday taking another look at issues like setbacks, with one representative of the cannabis community pointing to bus stop setbacks as a possible threat to growers' livelihoods.

The community advisory group, empaneled to create recommendations for a new grow ordinance, also returned to the subject of enforcement, as well as the looming issues of where people will be allowed to grow, how much they can grow and whether they'll need permits.

The issue of bus stops has long been discussed at panel meetings. Catherine Peterson, who serves on the cannabis group, said she wants a 1,000-foot setback for grows.

Jonathan Collier, another panelist and a member of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance's executive committee, cautioned against that.

"Thousands of people would basically be eliminated," he said.

Recommendations about bus stops, and other aspects of marijuana grows, will be written based off advisory panel feedback. Those recommendations and a report compiled by MIG, Inc. — the county's cannabis consultant — are expected to reach the Board of Supervisors around January. Supervisors have said they want a new marijuana ordinance in place by March.

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Pivoting to enforcement, panelist Lee French expressed concern over how authorities will police grows. He said some growers have told officials they want an ordinance that's easy to follow, adding that a number of cultivators repeatedly have violated existing laws.

"I just heard a lot of people say, 'You need to make this easy for me,'" French said. "They have a responsibility to do what the ordinance says."

Mark Schaefer, a panelist and cannabis alliance executive committee member, said trust has broken down on both sides of the issue. He said his organization and growers should respect a new ordinance that's not based on a prohibition mentality.

Panelist Forrest Hurd, a medicinal cannabis advocate, said the county can't let fear stop it from moving forward with regulation.

"People say, 'What are we going to do if we don't have funding?'" Hurd added. "We know what we're going to do. We'll do what we're doing now."

Permitting

Daniel Iacofano, founding principal of MIG, revealed a marijuana zoning and grow-size chart based off panelist input he gained between meetings.

According to that chart, a majority of panelists support 5,000-square-feet, or 50-plant, commercial grows of three to 10 acres.

The chart also states that a majority of panelists want cultivators to obtain some form of permitting for personal, outdoor grows in R1, or single-family residential, zones. Panelists previously indicated those personal grows could be three to six plants.

A majority opposed personal, outdoor grows in medium and high-density residential areas.

Panelist Rosemary Metrailer said she opposes requiring a grower to get a permit for a grow of only a few plants.

"If that's what this is meant to say, I just don't think that's right," Metrailer said. "I don't think they should have a permit to grow six plants."

Pamela Swartz, another panelist, said the chart appeared incomplete. She didn't want to base any of the group's recommendations on it.

Erin Tarr, also on the panel, said she wished the chart was created earlier in the process. She saw it as a tool the group could have used near the beginning of the panel's work.

Iacofano emphasized that the process to write a new grow ordinance didn't end with the community advisory panel's final meeting on Tuesday. Some panelists have expressed interest in a blue ribbon commission, a smaller group that would continue to guide the process.

Supervisors have made no decision on the creation of such a group.

Giving his final remarks, Schaefer praised the group's effort, saying it's built bridges in the community.

"I think this process is something that America could really use," he said.

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