Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

At its last meeting of the year on Tuesday, Del Norte County supervisors approved an emergency ordinance banning commercial cannabis activity in the county.

County Counsel Joel-Campbell Blair explained that on Jan. 1, the state will begin licensing commercial cannabis

“This does not cover the 215 collective grows, this does not cover the six plants per person cultivation,” he said.

Campbell-Blair explained the ban prevents the state from issuing licenses in the county when the county does not have ordinances in place.

Board Chairman Chris Howard said the temporary ban does not affect personal use or growing, but gives the county and its working group more time to “fine tune” its ordinance regulating all aspects of commercial cannabis activity.

“This basically keeps the status quo until we can come up with something better,” Howard said.

A staff reported said, “Noting the experience of other counties, as widely reported in the news, it is apparent that poorly regulated expansion of cannabis activity can result in significant social harms, such as artificially-inflated property values, abandoned properties that become nuisances, and increased black market activity.” The staff reports also predicted that issuance of state permits before the county has regulations in place could pose a risk to public health and safety.

Background

The county has held seven public workshops since March to look into and garner public input on how it will regulate commercial cannabis growing, manufacturing, transportation, zoning and sales. The goal of the workshops was that by year’s end, the board would be able to direct legal counsel to draft an ordinance suited to Del Norte County.

In early November, the board appointed a Cannabis Working Group, consisting of county staff and local experts in cannabis cultivation, manufacturing and sales.

Crescent City had already banned commercial cannabis activity but following a presentation in November, directed its Community Development Department to investigate the possibility of creating a city ordinance.

Public input

Resident Linda Sutter criticized the board for not having an ordinance ready, saying commercial cannabis could bring much-needed revenue to the county.

Cannabis advocate Robert Derego, manager of Del Norte Patients Together, asked if the interim ban would mandate that he will still have to pay sales taxes if sales are to be banned in the county. Derego said without a license, he will be unable to get laboratory-tested medicinal items after Jan. 1.

“Our organization doesn’t have the resources to ... test all these things so we rely on large organizations that have,” Derego said. “Organizations we would like to welcome into our community to provide jobs.”

Derego asked if he should stockpile such items in preparation for the Jan. 1 ban.

However, the discussion was distracted by other issues and the three-minute time limit and Derego’s questions were not answered. Campbell-Blair was out of the office later, leaving the questions unanswered.

Howard read a letter from Jesse Davis, chair of the Cannabis Working Group, who could not attend.

“The Del Norte Growers’ Association supports the commercial cannabis interim ban as a means to the creation of a commercial cannabis ordinance that will allow local cannabis businesses to contribute positively to the economy,” Davis wrote. “As a member of the county cannabis working group, a group of thoughtful and intelligent people, I am optimistic about our ability to achieve quality results.”

Davis closed his letter by saying if supervisors are unable to draft an ordinance by August, the Del Norte Growers Association is ready to bring forth a voter initiative that will put the decision in the hands of the community.

Jesus Cabrera said allowing commercial activity in the county can serve to get some money back from Oregon, since residents drive there to get it.

Howard responded that while the topic has been extensively discussed in public, the ban gives the county time to examine potential impacts and benefits of a commercial cannabis ordinance.

“Cost is a big factor to us,” Howard said. “There may be benefits economically that folks will realize. We also have to see what the costs will be related to new regulation and that’s where we are going to take our time and wade into this as a county and see what folks come up with.”

With no discussion from the board, the temporary ban was unanimously approved.

Unless extended by the board, the ban will expire on its own in 45 days. A combination of two extensions can continue the ban for up to two years.

Reach Tony Reed at treed@triplicate.com

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