Napa County supes table vote on extension of cannabis ban, plan outreach on allowed commercial activities

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The Napa County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to table until next month a decision on whether to extend a local ban on commercial cannabis activities, including cultivation. The board also voted to begin community outreach about whether to allow commercial cannabis activity.

The board directed David Morrison, director of the Planning, Building and Environmental Services Department, to come back Oct. 15 with an ordinance they could vote on that would amend the county code and ban commercial cannabis activity beyond Dec. 4, when it is currently set to expire. If approved, the ordinance would take effect Nov. 21.

The move comes after a group advocating for local commercial cannabis cultivation, Napa County Citizens for Responsible Green Cannabis Regulations, late last month 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.

Stephanie Honig, a board member of trade group Napa Valley Cannabis Association, at Tuesday’s meeting recommended a cultivation prohibition “as a short-term protection measure.”

“We don’t want anyone planting without proper regulations in place,” Honig said.

Napa Valley winery owners and the Napa County Farm Bureau voiced opposition to cannabis being grown in Napa overall at the meeting, saying it would negatively affect the area’s image and brand.

Farm bureau CEO Ryan Klobas said he supported an ordinance extending the ban on commercial cannabis activity and engaging the community on the issue. His group strongly opposed the commercial cannabis ballot initiative before it was withdrawn.

Molly Moran Williams of the Napa Valley Grape Growers said adopting the ordinance next month provides the county with more time to study the issue.

“There is much more to be understood about this prior to its cultivation and integration into Napa county,” she said.

Eric Sklar, also a board member of the cannabis association and who lobbied for the ballot initiative, took issue with how some vintners portrayed the negative effect commercial cannabis would have on the Napa area.

“Scare tactics should not govern your rational approach to this,” Sklar said. “The folks who have gotten very wealthy off the end of one prohibition are fighting to enforce another one.”

Before pulling the initiative, Sklar and his group had collected over 8,000 signatures earlier this year for their commercial cannabis ballot initiative, Measure J, to be placed on the March 2020 ballot. Faced with the legal requirement to adopt the initiative as an ordinance or put it on the ballot, the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 20 voted to put the matter to voters.

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