In a public meeting April 10, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors considered new regulations that could ban outdoor commercial cultivation in unincorporated areas of the county. The threat of further restrictions on outdoor cultivation has alarmed cannabis-industry leaders.
North Bay Business Journal interviewed Ned Fussell, co-founder of CannaCraft, the largest cannabis business in the North Bay, with nearly 350 employees and headquarters in Santa Rosa.
You are following the move at the Board of Supervisors to push outdoor cultivation indoors in the county?
That’s one of the proposals that the most vocal group is trying to push forward.
That group is residents in unincorporated areas of who don’t want cannabis cultivation nearby?
Yes. Even though they live in agricultural areas, they want their neighborhoods to stay safe from any kind of crops.
A similar phenomenon happened in areas with vineyards near residents
With existing (applications for cannabis-cultivation) permits sitting at the ag department, waiting to be permitted, there are about 80 collective acres throughout the county. There are about 68,000 acres of (wine) grapes. (Yet) I hear complaints about water use and the environment (by cannabis cultivators). The impact (of cannabis cultivation) compared to vineyards — it’s not even a conversation.
Cannabis is efficient. You need little land to grow it?
That’s right. And that’s not taking into consideration the economic impact. In the past year, according to Sonoma County GoLocal estimates of economic impact, the cannabis economy in Sonoma County was about $900 million. The grape industry was less. (Sonoma Co. had 205,000 tons of wine grapes crushed, average price $2,300 a ton, total crop value nearly $475 million.)
In CannaCraft, you are responsible for cultivation and Dennis (Hunter) manages extraction?
How many tons of cannabis do you buy from local sources?
Upwards of 10 tons a month.
Most of that from Sonoma County?
That’s the biggest bummer of this situation. CannaCraft has been built on support of Sonoma County growers over the last eight years. We have done everything we can to keep sourcing local. We also go (source) in Hopland and Mendocino (County), and a little in Humboldt (County) as we’ve grown. We have been proud that 80 to 90 percent of our source material has come from Sonoma.
Is it still in the 80 percent range?
Yes. About 80 percent of what we get is from Sonoma County. It has taken years for us to manage quality control, to find operators and people who care enough about the crop they are growing to make sure it’s pesticide-free, herbicide-free and fungicide-free. We have a laboratory at our facility (in Santa Rosa). We test everything that’s coming from third-party sources.
In the early days, we were failing 80 to 90 percent of all raw material coming in. It has taken years to find (quality-oriented) operators here locally. We make sure their processes and growing (are free of contaminants).
Since passage of Prop. 64, have you restricted sourcing so CannaCraft only works with legal, licensed operators?
Yes. Unfortunately, as of January we went from using 80 percent raw plant material from Sonoma County to now (almost none). Sonoma County doesn’t have any recreational licenses in place (for commercial cultivation).
They don’t have licenses, so they can’t sell to you legally?