Napa Valley cannabis entrepreneurs extend olive branch to farmers, county by shelving ballot plan

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Boosters pressing for commercial cannabis cultivation in Napa Valley Wednesday announced plans to withdraw their ballot initiative saying they now prefer regulations they are seeking to be included in an ordinance by the county board of supervisors.

“Following discussions with industry trade associations, various members of the Napa Board of Supervisors and community, the NVCA and The Committee prefer an ordinance that is a living document, over an initiative process,” Napa Valley Cannabis Association board member Eric Sklar wrote. “An ordinance can be evolved and changed by the Board of Supervisors at any time, whereas approved initiatives can only be changed with a ballot vote.”

The move comes after Sklar and his group collected over 8,000 signatures earlier this year for their commercial cannabis ballot initiative, Measure J.

Last week the Napa County Board of Supervisors voted to place the measure on the March 2020 ballot, as its only other option was to craft the initiative into a county ordinance as it stood.

Measure J, or the Napa County Cannabis Regulation Initiative, sets limits on sizes of “grow” operations, proximity to vineyards and other businesses, and other regulations.

Sklar described the withdrawal as a “gesture of good faith” in his email: “We support and prefer the ordinance process to collaboratively develop written regulations that will evolve in line with the current and future needs of the community, in a responsible and representative manner.”

The supervisors meeting last week had outside consultants' present the results of a report on how Measure J would affect Napa County.

The 9111 report, allowed for under that section of the state Elections Code, was ordered by the Board of Supervisors as an optional step between the certification of the signatures and the decision of whether to place the measure on the ballot or adopt it as it stood.

The Napa County Planning Building & Environmental Services Department recently created a potential timeline to help draft a land-use ordinance that regulates the commercial cultivation of cannabis and could allow for a full public process, Sklar added in his email.

“This process demonstrates a recognition of the voter support for responsible commercial cultivation of cannabis and the prudent desire to develop an ordinance that can evolve, supporting the community’s changing interests,” he wrote.

Agricultural interests, particularly winemakers, previously voiced strong opposition to the ballot measure and commercial cannabis in Napa County.

The Napa County Farm Bureau announced Friday it is formally launching a campaign to defeat the commercial cannabis cultivation initiative.

The 17-member board of the farm bureau voted unanimously last Wednesday to take the steps needed to start a professional opposition effort, including opening a political committee with the state then raising funds, CEO Ryan Klobas previously told the Business Journal. That would be separate from the political action committee the organization formed earlier this year, which by state law can only support candidates.

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