March 23, 2021
Dear Sonoma County Supervisors:
The proposed ordinance covering cannabis cultivation in Sonoma county is premature and will have profound effects on the scenery and quality of life in Sonoma County.
- According to the state of CA and the federal government, cannabis is a product not a crop. Sonoma County must continue to classify it as a product. Why is it a product? Because according to Proposition 64, which legalized it, as a smokable product, it cannot have any pesticide or insecticide residues. This, in turn means that it must be grown indoors (hoop houses). If Sonoma County classifies it as a crop, any pesticide drift from any neighboring source (dairies, vineyards, nurseries, private land owners etc) could make that neighbor liable, and that neighbor could lose whole crops, be fined and/or be sued by the cannabis grower. Fiddlesticks Vineyard in Santa Barbara County recently was fined because of pesticide drift and lost their entire chardonnay crop because they had to switch to a more expensive fungicide that proved to be ineffective. (see:https://www.independent.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Pesticide-drift-cases-in-SB-County-1990-2020.pdf
- This ordinance has blind-sided the entire community. At a time when we are all concerned with economic conditions, COVID, wildfire prevention and recovery, this major change to our county has been sneaked out, hoping to gain approval before our communities have been fully appraised of its consideration by the county.
- The County needs to focus on recovery and climate preparedness: We have suffered too much in the last four years.
- What’s the rush? Let’s pause cannabis permitting and witness what happens in Santa Barbara County. Let’s join with Napa and take a safe wait-and-see approach. If the cannabis opportunity truly is real and right for Sonoma County, it will still be real in 2-4 years. We can’t afford to get this one wrong.
- The cannabis industry should not be allowed to piggyback off of the reputation and brand we have carefully built. Our vineyards are firmly planted in the real soils of Sonoma County and grow in our beautiful blend of fog and sunshine. Indoor grows, most of which will be in potted soils heavily treated with fertilizers to promote maximum bud formation having nothing to do with the beautiful agricultural reality of Sonoma County and our incredible meat, dairy, vineyard, orchard and vegetable heritage. Given the cost of living in Sonoma County and the tax rates, there is only one reason for Cannabis to come to Sonoma County: to leverage the Sonoma brand for sales.
- Water – Cannabis uses at least 6x the amount of water per harvest compared to grapes. Cannabis grows 2-3 harvests per year or 12x – 18x more water compared to grapes (Napa County 9111 report, dated 2020).
- Plastic Hoop Houses: Plastic hoop houses are meant to extend the growing season. Not to protect a crop 365 days a year. Plastic hoop houses degrade Sonoma County’s renowned scenic character. Can you imagine a cannabis bust and decaying hoop houses scattered across our county? Plastic hoop houses are another reason that cannabis is a product not a crop.
- The skunk like odor growing 300′ from our tasting rooms will make wine tasting impossible 3-4 months a year (six weeks per crop x 2-3 crops = 3-4 months).
- Agricultural labor is already in short supply.
- Wrong product wrong place: Cannabis should be grown where there is abundant water, where it doesn’t need to grow in plastic hoop houses, and where it can have large setbacks to mitigate odors.
- Events: If cannabis becomes a crop then producers will be applying for rural events and attracting hundreds of people to grows around the county. If the county is already struggling with the definition and supervision of agricultural events, this will make the situation far worse and increase neighbor concerns dramatically.
A cannabis ordinance in Sonoma County is the wrong idea at exactly the wrong time for our community. We vigorously oppose any ordinance at this time.
Proprietor, Ernest Vineyards
Co-Founder, Grand Cru Custom Crush
1200 American Way
Windsor, CA 95492