Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

Final tweeks are being made on ordinances that may soon regulate the commercial manufacturing and retail sales of cannabis in Del Norte County, but some fine-tuning may occur later.

“We are pretty close to done on a retail and manufacturing ordinance,” county Legal Counsel Joel Campbell-Blair told the board of supervisors Aug. 14. The final draft from staff will go to the working group (Aug. 15), so they haven’t seen it, but we want to get this to the planning commission as soon as possible, we’re going to concurrently do the board and the working group...”

Campbell-Blair went over some of the ideas of the ordinances, saying if the board hates any of them, they can be revised before going to the planning commission. He explained the concept of a combining district which would overlay zones between the city and county, while still complying with underlying zoning laws.

“It would basically say that in the C2, C3 and C4 and M zones within that area, cannabis retail and manufacturing would be eligible to be done with a use permit,” he said, adding the process focuses on the areas best suited for manufacturing.

Noting county areas around Northcrest Drive, Elk Valley Road and near U.S. 101, Campbell-Blair said some property owners would be able to apply for use permits. Tentative maps showed circular lines around schools, designating a 500 foot boundary for medical retail use and a 1,000 boundary for adult use retail. He said the first boundary was set to accommodate an existing medical retail shop which is 508 feet (169 yards) from a school. Since the state requires a 600-foot setback, the proposed county setback would be less lenient, he said.

The ordinance said, manufacturing will be set back 1,000 feet from schools, regardless of medical or recreational use. He said 1,000 foot setbacks would also apply between retail stores, so as not to create clusters of cannabis businesses. However, that would not apply to manufacturing, so as to keep it isolated and reduce impacts.

Campbell-Blair said the ordinances would not allow manufacturing in the Harbor. Manufacturing would be only non-volatile, he explained, saying no chemicals which may explode could be used.

All information about each business would be available at the county planning commission hearings, to allow neighbors a chance to comment or object to proposed retail and manufacturing businesses.

Every permit will need to comply with state laws, create no impacts on the environment, have adequate security in place and will mitigate nuisances.

“We basically incorporate state law by reference,” he said, “and that’s a lot of laws. Every time they come out with new drafts, the regulations are more detailed, to the point where it seems so onerous to operate that we might not actually have any functioning industry at all, but we would incorporate those into the use permit so that if you break state law we don’t have to wait for the state to enforce it. We can do that.”

Discussion, deadlines

Supervisor Bob Berkowitz noted part of the report regarding road improvements and asked what sort of improvements would be necessary for permitted agricultural operations on places like Low Divide Road. Campbell-Blair said it will be further discussed at an upcoming meeting, but road ordinances will not be an issue with the current ordinances, as permits will apply to places using public utilities.

“The short answer is that if it’s going to happen in timberland on poorly-maintained roads, then the permittees are going to have to make some sort of accommodation, some investment in those roads so that we can permit them,” he said.

Berkowitz asked if the process is on track to happen by the end of the year, to which Campbell-Blair said yes.

“Let’s make the caveat that we are not going to be ‘done’ in December,” he said. “My goal has been to get retail manufacturing and some form of cultivation to this board by the end of the year. What I told the working group was to pick one area of cultivation and focus on that, rather than trying to solve the whole thing at once.” He said the fine-tuning of ordinances will continue.

“If we can, at least, say to the public that there is retail, manufacturing and some sort of cultivation (ordinances), then I think the working group has been pretty successful, considering,” Campbell-Blair said, later adding he hopes it will come before the county planning commission by September or October. Cultivation ordinances will be a month behind that, he said.

“That goal/deadline that we put in the ban ordinance is that first meeting, the only meeting in December, because if we can have something for the board to approve at that deadline, the ban can be repealed,” Campbell-Blair said, saying fine tuning can follow.

Later in the meeting, Supervisor Roger Gitlin noted “opting out” of commercial cannabis is one of the options provided by the state, in Prop 64. Gitlin wanted to remind residents also, the current ban on commercial cannabis makes it illegal in the county.

After discussion about setback distances and signage, board came to consensus not to go below the state standards for setbacks and require any retail business operate no less than 1,000 feet from schools for both medical and recreational sales.

Supervisors meet again Aug. 28.