Andrew Wilson: Nevada County Board of Supervisors ignores will of voters, shirks responsibility
Last January, our board of supervisors bypassed customary procedures and adopted an “emergency” ordinance banning all cannabis cultivation and commercial cannabis activity.
Recognizing that there was substantial opposition to their actions, and hoping to silence it permanently, they simultaneously put Measure W on the ballot, asking voters whether outdoor cannabis cultivation and commercial cannabis activities should, in fact, be banned.
Measure W was defeated in a landslide. The BOS did not rescind the “emergency” ordinance as it should have, and instead appointed a subcommittee of supervisors Weston and Beason, to choose an “ad hoc” committee of “stakeholders” to negotiate a compromise interim ordinance. After three meetings of the “ad hoc” committee, Weston and Beason announced that no consensus had been reached and, on July 26, 2016, the board adopted the current ordinance.
That was a slap in the face to the county’s voters. In direct contravention of the specific language of Measure W, the ordinance prohibits commercial activity and severely restricts outdoor cultivation, imposing setbacks which disqualify most parcels in the county. The board also deferred action on a permanent ordinance until the result of Proposition 64 would be known. This was unnecessary; Proposition 64 was not an unknown. It was patterned after and is identical in many respects, including cultivation license categories, to the medicinal cannabis law scheduled to go into effect in 2018.
The passage of Proposition 64 changed nothing. The board will now employ a consultant to help select “stakeholders,” hold meetings and “mediate” between the various conflicting interests. This approach is reflected in one of the board’s 2017 stated goals — “Support an inclusive stakeholder process to develop a long term County cultivation ordinance.” This politically correct happy talk reveals the true motivation of the supervisors who wrote it: to delay the process while absolving themselves of responsibility for the result by employing a consultant and stakeholder group to take the blame.
It is hard to imagine a more cumbersome, unnecessary, expensive and ineffective process.
Drafting land-use ordinances is not something new to the county. Just as it does with other ordinances, the board should task the appropriate departments with developing the ordinance. That process already provides ample opportunity for input from affected members of the community without creating an artificial group of “stakeholders” and excluding those who are not thought to have a “stake” in the outcome. The board should then consider the proposed ordinance in public meetings, giving those who wish to speak opportunity to do so.
Meanwhile, fines for violations of the ordinance have increased to $100 per plant per day. Deputy Sheriff’s have been posting “gate notices” asking for access to conduct compliance checks, despite the fact that there is virtually no cultivation in the dead of winter. Does the county intend to assess these draconian fines for violation of the current ordinance while dragging its heels on a replacement?
Enough is enough. This issue has been discussed and debated ad nauseam for several years. The time for debate is over. The voters have spoken. Nevada County should have a workable cannabis cultivation and commercial cannabis ordinance. A workable ordinance would require cannabis activities to be appropriately scaled and tailored to Nevada County and would protect all of us from whatever adverse impacts are threatened.
The board has an obligation to do more than “support an inclusive stakeholder process.” It has a job to do — a job which needs to be done now and not delegated to a consultant.
Andrew Wilson is an attorney and resident of Nevada City. A portion of his practice consists of representation of clients engaged in the cannabis industry on compliance with federal, state and local laws and regulation.
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