Yuba County takes step toward commercial cannabis ban
Special to The Union
If Yuba County’s stance on commercial cannabis wasn’t apparent before, it may soon be following the decision by supervisors this week to move forward with an ordinance that would ban all activities within its jurisdiction.
The board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the first reading of the ordinance and will hold a second public hearing on Nov. 14 to let more of the public speak about the issue before deciding whether to adopt, said Russ Brown, county public information officer.
The ordinance would take effect 30 days after final approval by the board, which would be just in time to notify the state Bureau of Cannabis Control that is responsible for developing commercial cannabis regulations by Jan. 1, 2018, and issuing commercial licenses.
By adopting an ordinance that would ban all commercial cannabis activities, the county is essentially telling the state not to issue licenses in Yuba County, said Kevin Mallen, director of the county’s Community Development and Services Agency.
Mallen said there are too many unknowns right now to let the state decide what regulations are for the county. He suggested the county move forward with the outright prohibition ordinance, and at the same time observe what happens across the state over the next year or two to see how things play out.
“I think there will be a learning curve for both businesses and those responsible for regulation,” Mallen said.
Supervisor Andy Vasquez agreed, saying that without knowing what the rules and regulations will look like, the smart move would be to adopt a local ordinance.
Supervisor Mike Leahy said the board has yet to discuss the issue openly with the public, which made him uncomfortable with moving forward with the ban. However, he said, after reviewing the ordinance, he found it aligned with the county’s objectives but also leaves the board the opportunity to make changes in the future if they so choose.
“This ordinance, at this time, makes sense,” Leahy said.
Supervisor Gary Bradford said the ordinance is just a “clarification” to the state on the county’s stance regarding commercial cannabis activities. He suggested that once regulations are released next year, the board reconvene to review and discuss the guidelines.
Before the board voted, residents were given an opportunity to speak about the proposed ordinance.
“A yes vote here means a no vote to commercial marijuana, at least for this stage of the game,” said Buck Weckman, local resident and founder of Yuba County Families Against Cannabis Trafficking (FACT).
There are three main reasons why the board should adopt a new ordinance, he said.
First, it would put a stay on commercial activities while the rest of the state figures out what works and what doesn’t. Secondly, county voters have proven time after time they don’t want the industry in the area — with residents voting down three measures last year involving increasing the amount of outdoor plants that could be grown, licensing medical marijuana dispensaries in the county and a commercial medical cannabis activities ordinance, as well as Prop 64 receiving a no vote by county residents.
Liggett thanked the board for its consideration of the ban and asked it to take action.
“We need to stop the danger before it starts,” Liggett said. “It does not make any sense to cause more havoc because of marijuana.”
Charles Sharp said the current approach has proven to not work but suggested creating something like a “cannabis alliance,” similar to one established in Nevada County, that brings officials, citizens and businesses together to have a more comprehensive discussion on how to move forward.
Jake Abbott is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat. Contact him at email@example.com, 530-749-4769 and on Twitter (@JakeAbbott_AD).
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