Napa County scrambles to cultivate cannabis ordinance as 2020 ballot deadline looms

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8 statutory areas of impact that 9111 reports can cover for a ballot initiative

1. Fiscal

2. Internal consistency of the county’s general and specific plans, including the housing element, the consistency between planning and zoning.

3. Use of land, the impact on the availability and location of housing, and the ability of the county to meet its regional housing needs.

4. Funding for infrastructure of all types.

5. Attraction and retention of business and employment.

6. Vacant land uses.

7. Agricultural lands, open space, traffic congestion, existing business districts, and developed areas designated for revitalization.

8. Any other matters the board of supervisors requests to be in the report.

Faced with a looming deadline to act before Napa County voters are asked whether they will allow local cannabis commercial activities, the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday moved toward creating its own ordinance.

State election law limits the actions county officials can take after an initiative is certified to have enough signatures to qualify for a ballot: craft the initiative into a county ordinance as is, put it on the ballot or call for a report on impacts of the initiative. As it has on past controversial measures, the board took the third path, voting 5-0 for staff to prepare a report allowed for in California Elections Code Section 9111 on fiscal, land-use, economic and other impacts.

The 30-day statutory clock for the supervisors to consider that report started ticking Tuesday, when John Tuteur, assessor-recorder-county clerk, presented them with the certification of the 8,246 signatures collected in June.

Looking at proponents of the cannabis initiative who were sitting in the audience, Chairman Ryan Gregory just before the vote expressed his frustration with the board’s having only three months after it gets the report back to craft an ordinance. Dec. 5 is the deadline for backers to decide whether to pull the measure from the March 3, 2020, ballot or move ahead with it.

“We’re not going to develop the best ordinance with a gun to our head,” Gregory said. “So if — when we get this report in a month, if there’s an appetite, I think y’all should consider how we could work together and how you might put that gun away to make sure we get this right.”

Addressing concerns from some vintners and wine grape growers during the public hearing about the impact of cannabis on the region’s reputation as producer of world-class wines and global tourist destination, Eric Sklar, a Napa Valley vintner, cannabis company operator and founding member of initiative backer Napa Valley Cannabis Association, told the supervisors that the time crunch has been a long time coming.

“We want to protect the brand. We want to do this right. You guys have had two and a half years since Prop. 64 passed to pass an ordinance,” Sklar said. California voters legalized recreational cannabis via Proposition 64 in November 2016. Though it took effect in January 2018, local governments were left to decide if and how cannabis would be allowed in their jurisdictions.

Sklar said in May at an event for the local cannabis trade group that he told the supervisors the industry would take action if they didn’t.

At the Tuesday hearing, Sklar and other association members said they would rather the industry be regulated by ordinance than at the ballot box, because ordinances can be adjusted when situations change.

Ryan Klobas, CEO of Napa County Farm Bureau, which voted to oppose the ballot measure, and Michelle Benvenuto of Winegrowers of Napa County also advocated for the ordinance route — after impacts are explored in the 9111 report.

During board deliberation Tuesday on the next steps, Gregory said the board considered creating a cannabis ordinance a year ago but decided against it because of other priorities. In the past 12 months, the county has been rolling out modifications to how use permits for the wine business are enforced, and some of the pieces of that, such as reporting of wine production, will still be going into effect in coming months. Gregory said he heard at a national convention of supervisors a couple years ago good advice for implementing regulation of legal cannabis.

“The biggest thing I left with was start slow, limit it to a handful of permits, and see how you can try to make it work in your community,” he said just before the vote. “And then require use permit compliance and performance along the way to make sure that it does fit your community before you open the door to wide open.”

Supervisors on Tuesday said they wanted the 9111 report to explore impacts such as the scale of the cannabis black market postlegalization and required increases in code and law enforcement staffing; tourism and agriculture in Sonoma and Santa Barbara counties; on the Napa County viewshed, especially, from plastic-covered greenhouses, called hoop houses; Napa County’s challenges in creating a sustainable groundwater agency; and banking and the handling of large sums of cash at businesses and government.

In another action Tuesday toward the go-slow approach with legal cannabis, the supervisors voted unanimously for a temporary moratorium on cultivation of industrial hemp, which are nonhallucinogenic strains grown for medicinal and other products.

8 statutory areas of impact that 9111 reports can cover for a ballot initiative

1. Fiscal

2. Internal consistency of the county’s general and specific plans, including the housing element, the consistency between planning and zoning.

3. Use of land, the impact on the availability and location of housing, and the ability of the county to meet its regional housing needs.

4. Funding for infrastructure of all types.

5. Attraction and retention of business and employment.

6. Vacant land uses.

7. Agricultural lands, open space, traffic congestion, existing business districts, and developed areas designated for revitalization.

8. Any other matters the board of supervisors requests to be in the report.

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