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Nevada County supervisors tweak off-site cannabis processing rules

Local cannabis growers scored a victory Tuesday after much pushback when Nevada County decided it will not place a cap on the number of off-site pot processing facilities.

The Board of Supervisors met for a public hearing on an urgency ordinance to allow off-site processing, but with a limit of just five facilities for the more than two dozen legal growers in the county. The proposed ordinance would have expired in December 2020, bringing the board back to where it started, but that provision was also defeated.

Instead, in a 4-to-1 vote, supervisors approved off-site processing with no cap and no sunset date. The new rule becomes effective immediately.

Supervisor Dan Miller voted in opposition.

Cannabis farmers expressed concerns to the county that they would not be able to process all the product they have been growing because the county only allowed processing on the site of a licensed grower — meaning some farms that don’t have the space, time or employees to process without help would lose some of their crops.

After a crop is ready to harvest, farmers must still dry, cure, store, measure, tag, trim, test and clean their flower before it’s ready to be packaged and fill the shelves at dispensaries. According to the growers at the meeting, many small farms don’t have the capacity for both growing and manufacturing, which can be like running two businesses at once.

Abraham Valensky, grower with the Sierra Sungrown Cooperative, said the board’s reversal would allow him to continue his business, though there are still hurdles to obtain the necessary processing license.

“This is just the beginning, now it’s up to us, the ball is back in our court,” Valensky said. “This allows us to keep growing locally, keep our business locally, keep costs down and stay competitive with the big growers.”

The move can be seen as a sign of the increased dialogue between the board and local growers, both of whom have had growing pains while adapting to the new business.

“We got ourselves in this position by not wanting to move forward on all the licenses that were clearly, obviously going to be needed once we agreed to allow growing in this county,” Supervisor Heidi Hall said. “Very clearly we’re going to have to look at the ordinance next year to fix things we did too quickly, fix things we didn’t know was going to come up because it’s our first time.”

Supervisor Ed Scofield said during the meeting that he has grown to trust the farmers. Hall added that meetings have become much less contentious recently.

Although there were concerns from the board about the environmental impact of allowing an unlimited number of businesses, which was not studied, considering the timeline and resources it takes to open a processing facility, not many more than the originally planned five facilities are expected to make it to market within the next year.

According to Diana Gamzon, executive director of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance, the inability to process off-site created a bottleneck in the cannabis industry’s supply chain, and allowing the ordinance with a cap wouldn’t have been as effective.

“We believe market conditions will apply and there will be a natural cap set by demand,” Gamzon said. “Unlimited licensing would provide assurance to the farmers that the supply chain will not be disrupted in the first year of a competitive business.”

Contact Staff Writer John Orona at jorona@theunion.com or 530-477-4229.


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