“If you can’t cultivate here, you can’t cultivate anywhere in Sonoma County,” said Magruder.

‘Onerous’ requirements

Sonoma County now anticipates revenue from cannabis taxes and business permits will fall $1.8 million short of initial expectations in the fiscal year that ends June 30, because so few growers have registered to produce pot legally.

Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar said the county’s requirements for cannabis cultivation are “onerous,” covering everything from sensitive ecosystems to security — measures required of no other agricultural activity. Legal marijuana growers will be the first agricultural group in Sonoma County required to meter and track groundwater use.

Linegar said the footprint of cannabis will be “tiny.” If every application currently with the county is approved, which is unlikely, the cannabis growing operations would cover about 40 acres. By comparison, Sonoma County’s $590 million wine grape crop covers more than 60,000 acres.

“You can plant 100 acres of potatoes and you need no permit, no permit whatsoever,” Linegar said. “I acknowledge and understand the issues around public safety and security — those have to be addressed. To me those are very important, top of the list. Besides those two items, this should be treated like any other crop.”

Cannabis cultivation shifting

Sonoma County’s rules banned pot cultivation in areas where it traditionally has been grown, areas called rural residential and agriculture residential zones, regardless of the size of the parcel. Some neighborhood groups championed that decision, but the unintended consequence is a majority of existing cannabis operators have been forced to find new places to grow.

“You’re seeing migratory patterns of cannabis cultivation, so that change has been alarming for some of the neighborhoods,” said Hopkins, whose west county district has long been known for marijuana trade.

Natasha Khallouf of Sebastopol is one of those migrating cannabis farmers, and she holds one of the few cultivation permits so far issued by the county. Khallouf, 34, a single mother of two, practices acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutrition at an integrative medical clinic in Sebastopol. She moved to Sonoma County from Santa Cruz about 13 years ago.

She is leasing, with an option to buy, a 5-acre parcel in Penngrove. It is a flat and rectangular piece of land that was used by neighbors with horses. Standing there recently amid crowing roosters and tweeting birds, she described the long hedge row she’s planning with native plants and flowers to shield the neighbors from the sight of marijuana plants. She’ll raise animals and plant a large herb garden geared toward Chinese medicine.

“It’s going to be a beautiful, colorful place,” Khallouf said, noting that across the street other neighbors are planning a 120-acre vineyard. “This is farmland. It is zoned for agricultural use.”

Her parcel is surrounded by houses. Some neighbors have complained, and they convened a meeting with Rabbitt and other county officials. Khallouf wasn’t invited. She attended anyway, but said she felt let down by Rabbitt and other county officials who didn’t invite her to speak or answer questions raised by residents.

Rabbitt, asked about the meeting during an interview, said he was there only as a guest to listen to the neighbors’ concerns.

“I’ve done everything the right way,” Khallouf said. “But a public official allowed me to be ostracized.”

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