New Changes for Santa Cruz County Cannabis
Last week you would have thought the world was ending, or at least that was the sentiment in the room during a recent meeting of the impromptu activist organization Cannabis Advocates Alliance (CCA). Formed in November as an immediate response to a move by the Board of Supervisors to reign in illegal cannabis gardens, the group claims that many of the proposed changes being considered would severely impact local growers and medical pot patients. The primary focus of these changes would be to limit the total size of individual gardens being grown outside of specific agricultural zones to 100 square feet. The proposed changes would also limit where dispensaries can source their product, and limit large scale indoor growing to only dispensaries directly.
CCA members are quick to point out that many existing growers do not fit within these rules, including collectives, and that it is unclear if the County would provide some sort of pathway for legalization or certification. They also contend that limiting all larger scale growers to specifically zoned areas will result in a race to buy those lands, creating an unfair dynamic where some may not have the opportunity to continue their livelihood due to a lack of land available for growing.
Though in their talks with individual supervisors, many seem unwilling to budge. The changes were proposed by outgoing Supervisor Neil Coonerty in response to resident complaints about the extent of illegal grow operations currently. To those living next to a larger outdoor garden there is always the potential for increased risk of theft, beyond just the basic nuisances like smell and increased traffic. These changes also come on the heels of a county-wide vote to tax local dispensaries, with a large portion of the soon to be collected funds already set aside for additional enforcement officers who would be tasked solely with combating illegal grow operations. The group has also met with Supervisor’s McPherson and his staff, Supervisor Friend and Supervisor Leopald, some of who have indicated they might be willing to compromise.
However, CCA is already planning for the worst, having sought out lawyers and professional signature gatherers for a potential referendum, which would mean collecting close to 6,000 verified signatures by February 13th, just 30 days after the Board weighs in. Though spirits were lifted about halfway through the meeting as organizers we able to collect close to $20,000 in pledges to help with the process just from the 40 or so people in the room. They have also been exploring multiple options for 3rd party certification, which could lay the ground work for a potential compromise by providing a pathway for legalizing some existing outdoor grows. Pending the striking of a complete deal at the January 13th Board meeting, it is unlikely that this issue will be put to rest any time soon.
What do you think? Should the County place additional restrictions on local marijuana cultivation? Should existing growers be given the opportunity to legalize their larger scale gardens? Is there a better way to deal with the impacts of illegal growing operations? Click below to cast your vote on the current proposal and leave comments on what you think should be done.