Gazette: What’s Wrong with Sonoma County’s Cannabis Ordinance?

Wine & Water Watch supports sensible regulations that do not build in perpetual conflict between commercial enterprises vs. neighborhoods and protects our environmental resources.

What’s Wrong with Sonoma County’s Cannabis Ordinance?

By SOS Neighborhoods

Sonoma County’s newly-approved Cannabis Ordinance fails to protect the environment from self-monitored, unenforced, and unpermitted land alteration. The ordinance fails to protect rural neighborhoods by allowing commercial cannabis operations to reside within a few feet of neighboring homes. The County does not have enough resources to properly inspect or enforce the current ordinance.

Save Our Sonoma Neighborhoods has been heavily involved with the Board of Supervisors, Code Enforcement, its Cannabis Program team, and its Planning Commission to create policy, raise awareness of real evidence of the negative impact to both neighborhoods and the environment and to shape meaningful policy considerations to improve the County’s cannabis ordinance.

Despite this, County officials continue to promote permits which do not allow for any public comment.

County staff and supervisors have visited residential homes which sit 125 feet from a cannabis grow building and experienced first-hand the odor, noise and blight nuisance. However, the County continues to ignore these issues.

Sonoma County’s current cannabis ordinance states:

“Medical cannabis uses shall not create a public nuisance or adversely affect the health or safety of the nearby residents or businesses by creating dust, light, glare, heat, noise, noxious gasses, odor, smoke, traffic, vibration, unsafe conditions or other impacts, or be hazardous due to the use or storage of materials, processes, products, runoff or wastes”.

The County is ignoring its own ordinance regarding protecting residents’ safety, security and right to enjoy their private property.

Four fed-up families in Petaluma, who were negatively impacted by noise and odor from a neighboring cannabis business, had to file a lawsuit against their grower for County officials to finally take action and shut down the cannabis site.(SEE No Pot on Purvine).

Ironically, the county recently issued a press release proclaiming progress to “right the cannabis ship” with cannabis operation shutdowns and assessing fines. There are now two full-time employees to enforce all county-wide cannabis land use codes. Yet we still have cannabis cultivators in the middle of neighborhoods who have no county-issued use permit to operate. Neighborhoods adjacent to the high-value cash crop continue to have concerns about the self- monitoring water consumption and insufficient fire road access.

This will become everyone’s problem if we don’t speak up now.

Sonoma County’s Board of Supervisors deliberated on October 16 and voted on a revised cannabis ordinance that provided several more favorable conditions for growers, including increasing use permits to 5 years prior to recognizing that such a business should not be 10 or 300 feet from a bedroom window (as is allowed today), allowing an additional 25% cultivation area for propagation, and allowing variances to park setback requirements for growers. This makes it much easier for commercial cannabis facilities to be located very close to all our parks. The Board did vote to require new applications to be on parcels of at least 10 acres, but will grandfather in all permits and pipeline applications on smaller parcels.

This pro-grower proposal strengthens a cannabis business’ position inside neighborhoods and closer to schools and parks, before addressing neighborhood compatibility and public health and safety

The County wants residents to prove and argue that living within a few feet of cannabis plants negatively impacts their home and life — for residents to “have a voice in the permit process.”

Who will win that battle?

Those who don’t know how to navigate government process – or the beneficiaries and consultants to cannabis revenue and county tax revenue?

We believe that Sonoma County officials are NOT protecting its residents from cannabis-related crime in neighborhoods, fire risks and environmental damage due to lack of code enforcement:

1) Commercial marijuana facilities do not belong in residential neighborhoods regardless of zoning: They belong in industrial zones.

2) Fire safety practices are not being followed by Sonoma County officials: Despite suffering one of the state’s deadliest and largest wildfires in October 2017, Sonoma County is completely ignoring road and fire safety issues by allowing commercial marijuana businesses to operate in remote areas accessed by narrow, winding one-lane roads which places residents’ lives at risk. This violates common sense.

3) Sonoma County is ignoring environmental laws in its unyielding support of the cannabis industry: This County’s most flagrant disregard for environmental laws is its purposeful and deceptive use of a “Negative Declaration” for the Medicinal Cannabis in County Cannabis Ordinance enacted in 2016. County officials claim by bringing illegal growers “out of the shadows and into the regulated market”, the impact to the environment would be positive.

Instead of shrinking the illegal sector while growing the legal one, the ordinance has simply added one on top of the other. And now the County is expanding the scope of cultivation and manufacturing to include recreational marijuana in addition to medical marijuana; this should trigger a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The entire program must be halted until a thorough EIR can be conducted.

SOSN demands the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission and staff fully address all of our neighborhood concerns, and suspend all cannabis permitting until a new ordinance can be drafted and approved. The new ordinance must support the interests of ALL Sonoma County residents, not just those of the Commercial Cannabis Industry.

Call to action:

1. Get engaged in our cause and learn more. Like us on Facebook and join sosneighborhoods.com This impacts all Sonoma County residents.

2. Donate to sosneighborhoods.com. We need to cover many costs including printing, mailers, website maintenance, legal action, lobbying.

3. Write to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voicing your concerns and objections to this failed policy.

For further information and to receive all supporting information for the details outlined above: contactinfo@sosneighborhoods.com


Save Our Sonoma Neighborhoods(SOSN) is a grassroots group of Sonoma County citizens advocating to improve Sonoma County’s Cannabis Land Use Ordinance that currently endangers Sonoma County residents, their homes, property values, environment and safety. We call for a moratorium on all new cannabis permits until a new ordinance is drafted and approved, one which supports the interests of ALL Sonoma County residents.

Comments:

Nov 3, 2018
Thanks to the author for making excellent points regarding this issue. My opinion: vineyards and pot farms need to be regulated with the same constraints that provide protection for neighboring residents. I live near a well-known vineyard and it is a reality for me that at a certain point in the growing cycle it begins to smell like I’m in a bottle of wine sitting on my porch. The county needs to apply equal justice to wine and weed growers to protect residents.
– Beef Mcwin

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