Yuba County committee researches pros, cons of commercial pot | TheUnion.com

Yuba County committee researches pros, cons of commercial pot

Jake Abbott
Special to The Union

Members of the Yuba County Commercial Cannabis Ad Hoc Committee say they're making progress.

"I really do think this is the first time local officials have done this sort of research," said supervisor and committee member Mike Leahy.

Leahy and Supervisor Gary Bradford make up the committee and updated Yuba County supervisors earlier this week – and they asked for more time for research.

The committee was formed back in January to investigate the many different facets of the commercial cannabis industry before returning to the board to provide a recommendation and options for moving forward. The county currently has a ban on all commercial cannabis activities.

So far, Bradford said, the committee has spoken with public safety officials about the impacts of illegal operations and suspected impacts of licensed businesses; went to illegal grow sites in the county to investigate the environmental damages associated with them; reached out to local industry experts on the potential impacts commercial businesses could have on the area; visited licensed facilities in Sacramento and Yolo County; interviewed licensed business owners; spoke with growers; met with officials from other counties to discuss the pros and cons of the industry in their jurisdictions; and met with rice farmers to discuss potential impacts and whether or not there was any interest in cultivation.

"We are scheduled to visit a manufacturer soon," Leahy said. "We also want to go deeper on the environmental impact of the legal market versus the illegal market."

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Leahy said one of the most interesting things he's discovered is how the legal industry in Sacramento has gone about improving the surrounding community. Entrepreneurs have bought up condemned, dilapidated buildings in the city and completely converted them, he said. On top of that, dispensaries are required to have security covering a two-block radius, so neighborhood security has improved in those areas, he said.

"I think that what we are finding, in terms of the anti-stories and pro-stories, are that none of them actually jelled out to what the truth is," Leahy said.

Bradford said the process has been a learning experience.

"There is a vast difference between the large illegal grows we are accustomed to dealing with in Yuba County and the licensed commercial cannabis businesses we toured," Bradford said.

Another reason county officials established a ban on all commercial cannabis activities last year was to see how regulation played out throughout the state. Bradford said throughout the committee's research, it has become clear that the state implemented strong environmental protections in its license requirements.

"Overall, the regulations introduced by the state in 2018 are significantly different than anything we've seen in previous years," he said.

Jake Abbott is a reporter for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat. Contact him at jabbott@appealdemocrat.com.

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