Board moves to extend ban on commercial cannabis in Napa County

The Napa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Oct. 15 to extend a local ban on commercial cannabis activities, including cultivation.

Director of the Planning, Building and Environmental Services Department David Morrison had presented the board with an ordinance, which they adopted, that amends the county code and bans commercial cannabis activity beyond Dec. 4, when it is currently set to expire. The ordinance is set to take effect Nov. 21.

The board previously directed Morrison’s office to prepare an ordinance explicitly prohibiting the commercial cultivation, manufacturing, and/or retail sale of cannabis in unincorporated Napa County for consideration at the Oct 15 meeting.

The board also directed its staff to hold a series of public outreach meetings beginning in January 2020, to provide information and to hear public opinion regarding commercial cannabis activities.

The ban is seen by cannabis boosters and opponents as a short-term fix while regulations are debated and put into place in the county.

In August, a group advocating for local commercial cannabis cultivation, Napa County Citizens for Responsible Green Cannabis Regulations, dropped a bid to put the issue of commercial cultivation to voters on the March 2020 ballot.

The group had already collected enough signatures and was poised to force the issue through a ballot initiative, but dropped it and changed tack in favor of crafting an ordinance in collaboration with the Board of Supervisors and other concerned groups.

Whether cannabis cultivation should be allowed in Napa Valley has been a topic of hot debate. Opponents, including many local winemakers and the Napa County Farm Bureau, have said cannabis will interfere with winemaking and intends to piggyback on the renowned Napa Valley brand.

In a letter from Morrison to the board accompanying the draft ordinance, he noted that “Based on a survey of California counties, approximately half currently prohibit commercial cultivation. All of them either explicitly ban commercial cultivation or are in the process of amending their code to include an explicit ban.”

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