Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

A report from the chair of the Del Norte County’s Cannabis Working Group on March 27 prompted supervisors to come out with their inclinations on a future ordinance regulating cannabis in Del Norte County.

Much discussion has taken place at supervisor meetings in recent months about the level of direction the board offers to the working group in crafting a draft cannabis ordinance.

Chair Jesse Davis said the working group’s March meeting continued discussions on developing setback distances from sensitive locations such as schools, daycare centers and others. Given the number of such setback areas in commercial districts, the working group estimated the county could have, at most, five retail cannabis locations.

He said the group questioned whether a cap on the number of stores could be implemented and whether delivery services would be considered retail locations and subject to such a cap. He said the legal details would need to be sorted out.”

“Either way, it wouldn’t matter, because there is not going to be room for dozens of stores in the county anyhow,” he said.

Davis spoke of the feasibility of a “tack and trace” program which would follow the product from the grower to the customer. He said Humboldt County has an expensive track and trace system in place, and that Del Norte may be able to implement one using software.

Davis asked the board to be a bit more open about what they would like to see in an ordinance so that the working group can have a sense of direction.

Indirect direction

After some prompting from Davis, and discussion about the legality of providing board direction, the board spoke a bit more openly than in previous meetings about their preferences for an ordinance.

Supervisor Lori Cowan said she has always favored the idea of having no more than three local stores, with no outdoor commercial growing except on large lots. She said she would like to see the setback maps the working group has and have legal counsel look at liability concerns about capping store numbers.

“I don’t want to see outdoor grows, period; cultivation, personal, I just don’t want to see it,” she said. “I don’t want to see signs on buildings that are obnoxious.”

Cowan noted that in all the time medical cannabis use has been legal in the county, operations have not been bothersome.

Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen said he agreed with capping the number of retail stores in the county but questioned how the county would determine which stores are permitted. Chair Chris Howard said he was getting concerned the discussion might be approaching the limit of what supervisors were allowed to discuss.

County legal Counsel Joel Campbell-Blair said the working group is close to submitting an ordinance regarding the regulation of the six-plant per person recreational cultivation limit, and that it would be good for the working group to know if the board will want to restrict outdoor growing altogether.

Howard said the board put its trust in the working group to debate and come up with ordinances for board consideration.

Supervisor Bob Berkowitz said the tone of meeting was what he had wanted, so ideas would be communicated between the working group and the board.

Prop 64, unpacked

Toward the end of the discussion, Davis made a notable distinction about the language of Prop 64. Davis said while most assume the proposition legalized cannabis in California, those who read it closely know otherwise. Prop 64 doesn’t legalize marijuana, but allows individual municipalities to control whether or not to allow it in their jurisdictions, he said.

“For people who really read Prop 64 thoroughly, it gave localities all the control in the world, whereas before, you had no control,” he said. “So if you were completely anti-cannabis and you understood Prop 64 through and through, then you supported it because it gave your community the ability to say ‘no,’ whereas before, you didn’t have that ability.”

Davis said one should not assume that because people voted for Prop 64, they wanted cannabis in their community.

“It could mean the exact opposite,” he said.

Howard said that in speaking to community members who voted for Prop 64, they only wanted to access and use cannabis, but not the commercial aspects of it.

Currently, the county has placed a ban on commercial cannabis activity in the county. The ban, approved last month by the board, contains language of intent to repeal it by December.

Supervisor Roger Gitlin was not at the March 27 meeting.

Video footage of the working group’s regular meetings can be found on the county’s YouTube channel.

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