Napa County cannabis advocates took the next step in putting it to voters to decide whether the plant can be cultivated and sold there.
The Napa Valley Cannabis Association collected over 8,000 signatures, more than the 5,635 needed to place an initiative on the March ballot, according to Napa County Registrar of Voters John Tuteur.
Tuteur said the proposed ballot initiative will now be reviewed by the Napa County Counsel’s office, and his office will compare a sample of 500 signatures with those of existing voters to verify them.
“I have to certify the sufficiency of the number of signatures and that the petition is legally valid,” Tuteur said. He said he has 30 working days from when the initiative was submitted last week to do that and would announce the results no later than July 10.
Eric Sklar is a founding board member of the association and CEO of cannabis company Fumé. In previous interviews, he said his organization decided to forge ahead with the ballot initiative because the Napa County Board of Supervisors has in the past declined to bring the issue of cannabis cultivation and sale to a vote.
Sklar said once the initiative and signatures are certified, the board can adopt the initiative as written, place it on the ballot, or ask the county staff to conduct a fiscal analysis of the measure.
In February, an association-commissioned poll found that 64% of Napa County residents would support a proposed ballot measure allowing commercial cultivation of the plant in parts of the county.
The initiative’s opponents include the Napa County Farm Bureau. CEO Ryan Klobas said the ballot initiative is not the right way to address the issue.
“For a polarizing issue like this the initiative process is not the right way to govern,” Klobas said.
The bureau’s board of director’s voted last month to oppose the cannabis group's initiative. He said an ordinance would be the better way to address the question of pot in Napa, although that does not mean his organization would immediately support one.
“We’d have to see a draft,” Klobas said.
There were plenty of unanswered questions around how cannabis would impact the land and existing agricultural industry in Napa County, including how cannabis impacts the land and wine grapes, he said.
“The ordinance process allows for more public input; the initiative process does not,” Klobas said.
Should the initiative find its way to the March ballot, the farm bureau and its board would decide how vigorously it wants to oppose the initiative, potentially campaigning against it, he said.
Editors Note: This story was updated with comments from Napa County Farm Bureau. Also, Eric Sklar's statement about the review of the initiative was changed to reflect that the county typically hires an outside firm to perform the financial analysis of a ballot initiative in coordination with multiple county departments.