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Nevada County supervisors approve new cannabis grow rules

Mark Schaefer broke two ribs and punctured a lung over the weekend, but that didn’t stop him on Tuesday from watching county supervisors approve a new cannabis cultivation ordinance.

“I don’t want to be dramatic,” said Schaefer, a former member of a citizen’s panel that created recommendations for the county’s new grow rules. “But I’m going to be.”

Schaefer, along with several others, pleaded with the Nevada County Board of Supervisors to pass the ordinance implementing new grow rules. It was the second time in as many weeks some of them spoke to supervisors during a public comment period.

They asked supervisors to pass the grow rules as an urgency ordinance, which would make it become effective immediately. Speakers like Diana Gamzon, executive director of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance, urged quick passage. Waiting 30 days for new rules, the time it takes for a regular ordinance to become effective, would shorten the growing season and potentially impact plant quality.

“The timeline urgency, it’s not a new matter,” Gamzon said.

A long time coming

After almost three years of community discussion stemming from the failure of a June 2016 outdoor grow ban, supervisors on Tuesday passed the urgency ordinance 4 to 1. Supervisor Dan Miller, who expressed concern over environmental effects, voted against. The vote required four-fifths’ passage.

An environmental impact report tied to the ordinance was certified in a 3-to-2 vote, with Miller and Supervisor Richard Anderson against. A simple majority was needed for passage.

According to Sean Powers, director of the county’s Community Development Agency, the speed at which a grow can receive local licensing is site specific. Powers anticipates issuing permits soon, now that the urgency ordinance is in effect.

“I commend you all,” Supervisor Sue Hoek told cannabis advocates gathered at the Eric Rood Administrative Center. “This has been a huge, long road.”

Speaking before the votes, Supervisor Ed Scofield reminded attendees to Tuesday’s meeting that he was a strong supporter of Measure W. He called himself a champion of the June 2016 ballot measure, which if passed would have banned outdoor grows.

Measure W failed, setting supervisors on a course to create commercial grow rules.

“I think the citizens of Nevada County spoke when they voted on Measure W,” Scofield said, indicating he’d support the urgency ordinance. “I know I’ll have constituents who won’t be happy with me about this.”


The urgency ordinance allows commercial, medicinal grows that meet certain requirements. Commercial grows can exist on General Agricultural, Exclusive Agricultural and Forest zones, if they’re on 5 acres or more.

The maximum size of a grow is based on acreage. No grow may exceed 10,000 square feet. Those grows must sit on at least 20 properly zoned acres.

Rules differ for indoor, mixed light and outdoor grows. No outdoor grow is allowed under 5 acres.

Cultivators need two local permits — one based off a grow’s size and an annual permit. Growers also need state licensing.

Supervisors on May 7 held a meeting focused solely on cannabis. In that meeting they addressed final concerns, which included the size of a grow’s support area, among other items.

A support area — where drying, curing, trimming, rolling and packaging occur — is now capped at 90% of a grow’s area. It was 25%.

Setbacks remained at 100 feet. A proposal to increase setbacks for larger grows was discarded.

No changes were made to non-remunerative, non-commercial grows, though county staff said they’d return to supervisors in June with recommendations those sites have lower fees.

Working together

Noting the many people thanking supervisors on Tuesday, Scofield compared the public comment to a rendition of “Kumbaya.”

“But I think we all know — there are going to be some issues ahead,” Scofield said.

Gamzon said she anticipates tweaks to the ordinance in the coming months.

Heather Burke, a Nevada City cannabis attorney, watched over the past three years as both grow advocates and supervisors moved from different opinions on cultivating toward collaborating on the ordinance.

“It’s something we have to do together,” Burke said. “It is so big, nobody can figure it out alone.”

For Schaefer — who served on the community advisory group, a panel that met throughout 2017 as it crafted recommendations on the ordinance — it was important to attend Tuesday’s meeting.

“I really wanted to put the last touches on it,” he said.

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


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