This story originally appeared on PressDemocrat.com at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/7155560-181/tawnie-logan-steps-down-as?artslide=0

An outspoken advocate for cannabis farmers, Tawnie Logan has stepped down from her role as executive director of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance after two years leading the organization through an era of profound change for California’s marijuana industry.

Logan, 35, will remain involved with the nonprofit group as chairwoman of its board of directors, a position that will allow her to continue pushing for farmer-friendly policies while pursuing business plans of her own. That could involve a role in a newly conceived dispensary that would showcase boutique Sonoma County-grown cannabis, she said.

Logan is shifting roles as the 200-member growers alliance prepares to enter a new phase of advocacy for Sonoma County’s cannabis farmers. With local cannabis business permit programs underway, the organization can put greater focus on helping its members find footing in a newly regulated market after decades operating within collective models or the illegal market.

“The last two years, we’ve really been an advocacy group that’s representing an underrepresented class of business,” Logan said. “Now, it’s time to evolve and embrace our position as a trade association.”

The association has tapped Terry Garrett, a managing member of the GoLocal cooperative, to help restructure its management team and mission during a time of transition.

Garrett, 62, is founder of Sustaining Technologies, a management firm specializing in economic development and business consulting which runs the cooperative. He also serves on the Sonoma County Economic Development Board and its cannabis task force.

“I believe in what they’re trying to do, wanting to be the standard bearer of cannabis companies across the country,” Garrett said. “They want to be the leaders of the industry and I’m delighted to be part of it.”

Logan had been a marijuana farmer for about 15 years in 2015 when she decided to stop farming and become a full-time advocate with the fledgling growers alliance.

She became the county’s primary voice for cannabis farmers, at once both coaxing people who have been operating in the shadows of an unregulated industry to step forward and advocating local and state policymakers to create policies welcoming to small farmers and sustainable practices.

She developed a reputation as an astute political observer and an influential voice for cannabis farmers, Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said. Logan has been a forceful and respected adviser to the county on behalf of the cannabis farming industry.

“She’s been an absolutely integral bridge between county government and the cannabis industry and specifically a really strong advocate for small cultivators,” Hopkins said. “Even though she’s no longer the leader of the organization, she’s always going to be a leader in the community no matter what she will be doing next.”

Garrett will consult with the growers alliance on a part-time basis to help restructure its management team, which was formerly an executive director with administrative and marketing support, into a team-based management model. Garrett said he will work with current staff and the board over the next month to develop the organization’s new mission and goals.

They have already begun recruiting candidates for management roles.

Both Garrett and Logan said the alliance will work to help address a major pitfall in the county’s cultivation ordinance that bans cultivation in rural residential areas, excluding potentially thousands of longtime growers from production.

This story originally appeared on PressDemocrat.com at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/7155560-181/tawnie-logan-steps-down-as?artslide=0

“The fact that the county banned the activity didn’t make it go away,” Logan said. “It just makes it inaccessible for operators to take part in the permitting, disincentivizes participation and prevents them from being able to pay taxes.”

Last year, Garrett produced an economic impact report to estimate the scope of Sonoma County’s cannabis industry. What he discovered made clear to him how integral cannabis farmers are to the local economy.

Using data from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Garrett estimated the production of cannabis in Sonoma County is worth about $3 billion, employing about 12,000 people.

By his calculations, cannabis production is nearly 13 percent of the local economy, measured by gross county product. By comparison, local vineyards yielded $572 million in grapes last year, although the figure does not include the value of wines made from those grapes.

“When I look at a $3 billion wholesale crop value, I think about how it supports all the small businesses and how dependent we are on that cash flow,” Garrett said. “That’s money that gets circulated through restaurants, dry cleaners, shoe stores, landscaping, you name it.”

Before taking the helm of the growers alliance as its founding executive director, Logan was a cannabis farmer and sales employee for an organic fertilizer company. Logan said she hopes to one day get a permit in order to farm again. In the meantime, she plans to advise local farmers on best practices and help businesses get started amid new regulations, both locally and, starting next year, with the state.

Logan, a Sebastopol resident with two teen daughters and a fiancé, lived in rural Santa Rosa with her children and grew marijuana in Mendocino County for many years. She said she hopes to eventually get back to organic farming, which is her main passion.

“I’m not done at all helping evolve policy, and that’s one of the primary reasons I’m staying on as chair of the board,” Logan said. “It will be great getting back into the garden.”

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.