Northern California

Talk of allowing commercial cannabis cultivation in Sutter County pushed back

For the first time since California voters legalized recreational marijuana last November, Sutter County was set to discuss the future of commercial cultivation at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

Staff were scheduled to consider modifying the county’s cannabis ordinance and the implementation of a tax measure on those cultivations.

But the item was pulled from the agenda just prior to Tuesday’s meeting. Chuck Smith, public information officer, did not give a reason why or verify if those talks will be moved to the board’s next meeting.

Smith said the original agenda item was largely spurred by outside companies seeking for the last several months to gauge whether the county is open to loosening cultivation restrictions.

“Staff would like to know sooner than later about the board’s thinking,” Smith said. “It would save staff a lot of time if the board was not interested in modifying the ordinance.”

The current ordinance, passed by the board in March 2016, prohibits outdoor cultivations and restricts indoor cultivations to detached accessory buildings not exceeding 80-square feet in size, according to the county’s Development Services Department report.

If the board does take up the item at a future meeting and approve it, staff will prepare and bring forward changes to the ordinance to allow limited indoor commercial cultivations in unincorporated Sutter County. An accompanying tax measure would be voted upon at the June 2018 election. The ordinance would not take effect unless the tax is approved, according to the report.

Smith said the board has the authority to modify the ordinance through a number of ways, which includes allowing citizens to directly vote on it. The tax, per state law, would need to be approved by a majority of voters.

Jim Whiteaker, District 4 supervisor, said the board would be taking a proactive measure in letting citizens decide.

“The first priority is to wade through this entire thing,” Whiteaker said. “Rather than having the board decide, let’s take this straight to the voters. I think this is the best way to go. There is a lot of time before June which should give us some time to create an ordinance that will be good for the county.”

Whiteaker said it might be useful to see how ordinances approved in other counties fair when the state begins to issue licenses on Jan. 1.

Ron Sullenger, District 1 supervisor, said he is is not convinced the county should spend money on an additional election item. Instead, elected supervisors should gauge the response of citizens in their respective districts.

“I’m not sure I’m prepared to take this to the voters,” Sullenger said. “It is pretty well known the general consensus of voters of California and what they want to do with cannabis. My participation in this is to keep it out of site, out of mind and regulated, but not over-regulated.”

Stacy Brookman, a cannabis consultant with Canna-360, said there are multiple incentives for counties to adopt ordinances on commercial cultivation.

“Cannabis is here no matter what,” said Brookman. “Whether you choose to regulate it or not, cannabis is going to be there. Legal cannabis production will run out the black market cultivation.”

Brookman said ordinances that stipulate security standards and documentation of the product will allow law enforcement to build a relationship with business owners. He said this is especially important after two Yuba County Sheriff’s deputies were shot earlier this month after responding to an incident involving marijuana plants.

In speaking with county officials, Brookman also spoke of the financial benefit to through tax revenue. Yolo County, which Brookman said is lightyears ahead of Sutter County, is expected to generate revenue of $6 million to $8 million per year.


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