Extra staffing is being put into place by Sonoma County as it prepares to accept permit applications on July 5 for commercial and medical cannabis businesses.

A representative in the emerging industry states in the county's announcement that there are an estimated 7,000 cultivators in Sonoma County, many of whom have been here for over 20 years.

Voters in California legalized recreational cannabis in November 2016 allowing local governments to establish rules for cultivation and sales. Operators also must obtain state permits.

The county will be issuing permits for all types of cannabis operations: manufacturing, distribution, nursery, dispensary, lab testing, indoor cultivation, mixed light cultivation and outdoor cultivations up to 1 acre in size. Permit Sonoma will be issuing the majority of these permits.

The county Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures will issue the smaller outdoor permits- under 10,000 square feet in Diverse Agriculture and Land Extensive Agriculture and up to 25 plants in Land Intensive Agriculture.

The county Environmental Health Department will also begin accepting health permits for dispensaries and edible manufacturers.

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Shirlee Zane explained: “The county’s goals in permitting cannabis are to preserve our environmental resources, protect the health and safety of our communities, and ensure the industry contributes positively to the economic vitality of our county. We are starting with a fairly conservative approach issuing one-year permits to allow the county to adapt to unforeseen impacts and changing state laws.”

Sonoma County is a leader among California counties to implement the medical cannabis permitting process. In December 2016, the Board of Supervisors adopted the Cannabis Ordinance for Land Use, Medical Cannabis Health Ordinance, and Cannabis Business Tax Ordinance. Ordinances of this nature usually take two to three years to adopt, but in order to provide a clear path forward for existing cultivators seeking a state license, Sonoma County adopted the Cannabis ordinances in 10 months.

In the county’s announcement, Tawnie Logan, a founder of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance, noted the county ordinance “was not created to launch a new industry, but to help an existing industry gain access to an emerging regulated market.”

The Permit Center will extend public hours on July 5, operating from 8 a.m.to 4 p.m. (previously 10:30 to 4).

Information on the ordinance and cannabis program may be found by visiting the project website: www.sonomacounty.ca.gov/cannabis. For more information, please contact Sonoma County Cannabis Program Manager Tim Ricard, by phone at 707.565.7257 or email at tim.ricard@sonoma-county.org