2019 top stories: Napa County cannabis businesses at 11th hour halt ballot effort to work on ordinance
Napa County grown commercial cannabis probably won’t be on the shelves in the near future, but local grows are likely to come into being there because of several dogged cultivators and business owners.
The Napa County Board of Supervisors had not brought the issue of cannabis cultivation in the county up for a vote in 2019 despite legalization taking effect statewide in 2018. Cannabis boosters in the county were poised to force a ballot box showdown on the issue in the Fall before backing down in favor of a future compromise with the County Board of Supervisors.
Earlier this year, the Napa County Citizens for Responsible Green Cannabis Regulations and member Eric Sklar, who owns a Lake County-based cannabis cultivation and delivery company called Fumé, collected enough signatures to place an initiative on the March 2020 ballot that would allow commercial cannabis cultivation in Napa.
That put the board in the position of either adopting the provisions of the proposed ballot item, Measure J, or placing it on the ballot.
Sklar’s group announced in September that it would pull back the ballot initiative however, which could only be changed through another vote, in favor of engaging in public debate aimed at crafting a ordinance adopted by the board.
“In the end what we really wanted all along was for the (Napa County Board of Supervisors) to work on a public process to get to an ordinance that most people can be happy with and that works for cultivation in Napa Valley,” Sklar previously told the board during a meeting.
In a previous email to the Business Journal, Napa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ryan Gregory said at first he was surprised by the decision to withdraw the measure.
“We didn’t make the commitments … that the proponents wanted in order to pull it. But them pulling it anyway demonstrates a lot of good faith in approaching this complex issue in a more collaborative way. It also shows that they heard the concerns of the county and the public around issues not addressed within the initiative that was written,” Gregory wrote.
Some of those concerns in particular emanated from local vintners who voiced opposition to commercial cultivation in the county because of what it would potentially do to the environment and the image of the Napa Valley as a famed wine growing and tourism hub.
The Napa County Farm Bureau also previously showed strong opposition to the idea of commercial cannabis grows in the county. The farm bureau voted unanimously in August to start a professional opposition effort, including opening a political committee with the state and then raising funds, CEO Ryan Klobas previously told the Business Journal.
The board voted to extend a ban on commercial cannabis grows in the county into 2020, creating time to piece together an ordinance.