Mark Schaefer: Reduce the number of ‘bad actors’ |

Mark Schaefer: Reduce the number of ‘bad actors’

In an opinion column published in The Union, Sheriff Keith Royal pointed out many ways that irresponsible cannabis farmers are creating nuisances and causing problems for their neighbors.

He reminds us of the importance of identifying those farmers who engage in negative practices and weeding them out or educating them about positive practices that have less impact on our community.

The California state legislature recently passed three comprehensive bills, which will regulate the medical cannabis industry.

The bipartisan legislation calls for oversight of cannabis cultivation by the Department of Agriculture.

With the new legislation in place legitimizing the medical cannabis industry, the road has been paved for our farmers to establish small businesses, which raise revenue and employ our citizens.

Finally, after years of legal uncertainty, medical marijuana will be classified as an agricultural crop imbuing cannabis farmers with the same rights and responsibilities as other farmers.

We hope that with new regulations and with proper education, our local farmers can start to be seen as respectable contributors to our community rather than nuisances.

The California Growers Association (CGA) is a statewide and local group that has been involved with the drafting of these bills to assure that cannabis cultivation statewide is done in a responsible, eco-friendly and community-friendly manner.

In addition to clear small business-friendly regulations, CGA realizes the importance of educating local farmers in best management practices to assure that the negative impacts on our community are reduced or completely curtailed.

The new state regulations address many of the concerns that Sheriff Royal highlights in his letter, even those concerns which were not addressed in Nevada County’s nuisance Ordinance 2349, such as traffic, water theft, treatment of employees, and gun ownership.

As a result, the current legislation actually goes even further to assure that cannabis cultivation is conducted with the same, if not more regulations as other agricultural crops.

One of the problems that Sheriff Royal mentioned in his letter was the treatment of seasonal workers who assist in the harvesting and production of usable medical cannabis. Many of these part-time workers are residents of our county and some come into the area just for the harvest season. The new state regulations require cannabis farmers to adhere to the same employment criteria to which other small businesses in the state must adhere.

CGA is dedicated to educating growers employing these workers in responsible employment practices.

These workers deserve the same respect and dignity that anyone working in our county deserves.

Employers must also educate their workers and require them to be respectful of neighbors and other community members.

The new state legislation also addresses the issues of water theft and protection of watersheds. Now, the State Water Board and the Department of Fish and Wildlife will regulate matters of water use and discharge, taking the onus off of local governments.

CGA has also been educating farmers about water management in light of the drought as well as water catchment and proper environmentally friendly use of nutrients and disposal of runoff.

For the most part, our local farmers want to be good stewards of the land and good neighbors.

They also want the opportunity to contribute to the community just like any small business.

With the new legislation in place legitimizing the medical cannabis industry, the road has been paved for our farmers to establish small businesses, which raise revenue and employ our citizens.

We look forward to a new era where regulation will be done with clipboards and not guns.

We know that we will never have the support of every community member for medical cannabis related businesses, but we hope that by working to reduce the number of “bad actors” and highlighting the benefits these hardworking farmers bring to the area, we can reduce the number of nuisance complaints and the need to pit neighbor against neighbor.

Mark Schaefer is a member of California Growers Association, formally known as Emerald Growers Association. He lives in Penn Valley.

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