FOG UPDATE – ACTION NEEDED – Cannabis/hemp decisions being made now
Please write your supervisors (addresses below) and attend the Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting on Monday January 6th at 10 am. At that hearing, the BOS will be considering adoption of a hemp ordinance, which will allow cultivation of hemp as an agricultural product in Sonoma County.
The draft hemp ordinance under consideration on January 6th would only establish mandatory setbacks to parks, schools, or residences in one agricultural zoning (AR .) Staff is recommending that other agricultural zonings not have mandatory setbacks. If your property is adjacent to an ag parcel, you may have hemp right outside your window with no buffer zone.
Hemp is a cannabis plant without the THC (the psychoactive component). If the draft hemp ordinance is adopted, all that will be required to grow hemp in most ag zonings would be a ministerial permit from the Ag Commissioner Office. A ministerial permit does not allow for environmental review or public comment.
Why does FOG care about the hemp ordinance? Please read below:
THE BACK STORY:
On December 17th, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) acted to move the regulation of cannabis from Permit Sonoma to the Agricultural Commissioner’s office and to make cannabis permits ministerial (think rubber-stamped) instead of subject to environmental review. Here is the PD article: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10473986-181/sonoma-county-supervisors-ok-changes
The County has changed its original approach to cannabis drastically and now appears to want to allow cannabis grows as they allow other agricultural products, such as grapes, apples and hay.
FOG feels that if the draft hemp ordinance is adopted on January 6th, the BOS will adopt similar regulations for cannabis. This is because, as the PD article states, “The similarities (between cannabis and hemp) make it a challenge to regulate one plant in a drastically different manner than the other.”
If similar regulations are adopted for cannabis, there will be little opportunity for communities to express concerns about smell, security, traffic or other environmental issues for a cannabis project near their neighborhoods. This will also mean that setbacks to residences, schools and parks for cannabis grows may be greatly diminished from the setbacks proposed by the BOS previously .
For the West County Trail, which was recognized as a park this year partially due to the efforts of FOG, this could be a disaster. If the Board proceeds with staff’s recommended actions, hemp or cannabis could be grown right up to the trail. Any setbacks/buffers would only be “recommended” and would not be mandatory.
FOG stands firm on the need for setbacks/buffers for both hemp and cannabis to protect residents from odors and the potential for crime. We believe the County should follow Monterey County’s example and treat hemp as cannabis, since they are virtually indistinguishable and have the same odor problems. In other words, apply the most stringent regulation rather than the loosest. In Monterey County hemp and cannabis grows require 1000′ setbacks to residences, parks, schools and other sensitive uses and can only be grown in limited zonings, not residential
FOG also supports processing of hemp only in industrial and commercial zones as is required for cannabis.
For those who would like to read the Draft Hemp Ordinance that could be adopted by the BOS next week, it is here:
Unregulated hemp can mean un-regulated cannabis and therefore we are urging you to attend the BOS meeting, even though it is for regulating hemp. These two efforts are going on simultaneously. The issue is setbacks/buffers. If you want some protection for your neighborhood, you must speak up now.
Please write your Supervisors (addresses below) as soon as possible and try to attend the BOS meeting on Monday 1/6 at 10 am, 575 Administration Dr., Santa Rosa. There is no requirement to speak, but please do so if inspired.
Please Copy and Paste if the links are not active:
District5@sonoma-county.org Susan.Upchurch@sonoma-county.org Leo.Chyi@sonoma-county.org
Anna Ransome for Friends of Atascadero Wetlands