Board of Supervisors sends Phase III back to Planning Commission

Apr 28, 2021

April 28 — The Board of Supervisors sent recommendations for a reworked cannabis cultivation ordinance back to the Planning Commission for another round of review. Yesterday’s nine and a half hour long meeting was held after an early-morning rally protesting the expansion of cannabis grows into rangeland during a drought. 

In spite of assurances that no new permits will be granted without water, deliberations were dogged by talk of a referendum that would undo the ordinance. Social media comments as the meeting was underway revolved largely around the lack of water and calls to recall the supervisors. At the same time, the current phase I ordinance is only open to growers who have already proven to their local government that they were committing the felony of cultivating a schedule 1 narcotic prior to 2016. The lack of enforcement is one of the things that led Andrew Hilkey, of the Water Equity Group in Willits, to carry a sign outside the empty board chambers.

Ellen Drell, of the Willits Environmental Center, is already thinking about what it would take to carry out a referendum.

But the board is also up against pressure to comply with state law. County counsel Christian Curtis cautioned that drafting an entirely new ordinance would require a years-long process of environmental review. And the current ordinance is not immune to legal challenges.

The board is counting on a separate effort to beef up enforcement following the Humboldt County model, using real time aerial surveillance, large fines and property liens to discourage illegal grows.

Most  cultivation in the county is illegal. And, according to County Counsel Christian Curtis, without amending the ordinance, that could soon include cultivation that’s currently legal.