Mark Schaefer: Cannabis Alliance ready to focus on middle ground | TheUnion.com

Mark Schaefer: Cannabis Alliance ready to focus on middle ground

Other Voices
Mark Schaefer

I am grateful for Ed Scofield's adoption of a new way to look at the cannabis issues in our community ("Other Voices," The Union, Nov. 24).

Mr. Scofield's call for compromise from folks on all sides of the issue is refreshing, not only as it relates to cannabis in Nevada County, but also as it relates to a national political climate that is entrenched in a "winner takes all" mentality.

As an individual citizen, I respect the reminder to avoid this aggressive mindset. As a board member of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance, I value the opportunity put a more conciliatory mindset into action.

The Alliance has submitted its first draft of ordinance recommendations as public comments to the Community Advisory Group. A more complete version will be submitted this week, also via public comment to the group. Both versions will be available to the public on the Community Development Agency's website.

We hear the community’s concerns and we want to address them ...

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In these recommendations, Supervisor Scofield's call for concessions has been heeded. We hear the community's concerns and we want to address them:

Issues of odor and security are addressed in our recommendations through neighbor waivers. On most parcels that don't enjoy the agricultural designation, a grower must get a buy-in from all of the adjacent neighbors. Security issues will be addressed by requiring growers to submit a detailed security plan and to enroll in the state-mandated "track and trace" system.

To address concerns about a proliferation of cannabis production and fears of a "Green Rush," we recommend that the cultivator must be an established resident of the community in order to acquire a permit. We also support strong penalties for those who continue to grow without a local permit and a state license.

In our meetings with agricultural and farm community representatives, we heard their concerns about the impacts of cannabis production on food production. Our recommendations include incentives for cannabis cultivators who also produce traditional agricultural products when those products are distributed in our county.

The Alliance has been listening to members of the community concerned about youth access. We support safety measures in a local ordinance requiring security plans, buffer zones, and packaging restrictions. Outside of the ordinance, the Alliance supports and is willing to participate in a coalition of appropriate stakeholders to review and prepare educational materials. These materials would include information about the potential negative effects of cannabis use on the developing brain, how to help parents talk to their children about cannabis use, and the creation and funding of school programs that address the use of cannabis.

The issue of seasonal workers, aka "trimmigrants," is also being addressed. The state regulations have given us a big hand up by requiring all permitted operators to maintain personnel records, including each employee's full name, social security, or individual taxpayer identification number, and other employee information.

Also, in an effort to get these seasonal workers off the streets, we have recommended allowances for temporary seasonal housing on the cultivation site, similar to the allowance recently given to other county agricultural employers.

These are just a few of the Alliance's recommendations aimed at finding a middle ground. The Alliance and its members genuinely desire to create a cannabis industry in Nevada County that aligns with our community's character and vision. Many of the current cultivators in the county are respected citizens. They run nonprofits, are baseball coaches, contractors, waiters, teachers, volunteers, and realtors. They are engaged members of our community.

What do I want to see from the county in the way of compromise?

I'd like to see the ordinance address the many public health and safety considerations without creating unnecessary obstacles to the success of a well-integrated local cannabis industry. If cannabis businesses in Nevada County can become licensed, regulated and allowed to prosper, the whole community will benefit. Regulation will make it easier to shut down illegal grows, create jobs, and generate considerable tax revenue.

"Winner takes all" may be the mentality of our times, but let's make "win-win" the mentality of our community.

Mark Schaefer lives in Penn Valley.