Commercial Cannabis Cultivation Fast-track Permitting Process
The Cannabis industry threatened Sonoma and Napa counties with a ballot initiative to take regulation of cannabis away from county officials. Napa responded by commissioning a thorough 9111 Report; and on March 2 nd Napa’s Supervisors, with strong support by the Napa Farm Bureau, vintner, grape grower and hospitality groups, denied cannabis cultivation on their agricultural and watershed lands.
In contrast, Sonoma County halted work on the State-required Environmental Impact Report and diverted resources to the preparation of a fast-track permitting process with no public notice and little project-specific environmental review for commercial cannabis.
Public and Agency Input Basically Ignored: To view all of the letters submitted into the Admin record are on county website. And the County wasted our precious time submitting hundreds of questions submitted during Listening Sessions – which the County didn’t even bother to answer before the PC hearing.
Legal Challenge: Shute Mihaly and Weinberger, LLP found that Sonoma County’s proposed cannabis ordinance and its supplemental mitigated negative declaration failed to adequately analyze the environmental consequences of ministerial permitting as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Shute Mihaly and Weinberger LLP filed a 62-page letter, with an extensive list of Exhibits and Attachments, on March 18, 2021. The Letter details the deficiencies in the County’s proposal to expand commercial cannabis cultivation without adequate analyses of the impacts to, among other things, air quality, water supplies, aesthetics, and fire safety/emergency access.
The law firm made two findings: Sonoma County cannot legally proceed:
- Proceed without doing a full environmental impact report to identify areas appropriate for cannabis cultivation versus sensitive lands; and
- Adopt a ministerial process because, per CEQA’s article 19, discretionary decision-making is required.