Supervisors move to bring equitable access for retail Cannabis
Nevada County residents who want more legal cannabis retail businesses in unincorporated areas of the county may gain more equitable access to dispensaries.
The Nevada County Board of Supervisors approved an application from the Department of Cannabis Control that if approved would allow for Phase I funding of up to $10 million to enable Nevada County to establish a cannabis retailer licensing program in unincorporated location(s) in Nevada County, according to a staff memo on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.
The Economic Development Office and Cannabis Compliance Division is seeking the Phase I grant from the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC), Retail Access Grant Program.
Up to $10 million in total funding is available for Phase I and an additional $105,000 equity bonus is available for jurisdictions meeting qualifications, according to the memo.
“This grant program aims to provide consumers with reliable consumer access to regulated, tested cannabis in the legal market, and reduce demand in the illicit market,” the memo said.
Cannabis may be legal in California, but 56% of cities and counties in California do not allow any type of cannabis business, according to The Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) on the CA.gov website.
This limits consumer access to regulated, tested cannabis and cannabis products and creates a need for an "equity bonus" within the grant for counties that qualify, especially for individuals who can not travel long distances to purchase cannabis or do not have access to delivery services in their area, according to DCC.
A blank application for the Phase I of the grant was included in the board packet and Lisa Swarthout, supervisor for district 3 commented that staff needs to be given clear direction, even though she was in support of the application, she felt some unintended consequences occurred.
“I want to make sure that we are really clear when we check these boxes,” Swarthout said. “I want to make sure we are… holding community outreach meetings and engagement events, conduct surveys or otherwise solicit input, form a stakeholder workgroup or technical advisory committee, consult local jurisdictions with existing cannabis programs, conduct economic studies and conduct environmental reviews.”
The Supervisors discussed the plan in January and at their board workshop, and because the grant is a planning grant and a competitive grant it will return for the supervisors to review several times as the application moves through the grant process, according to Kimberly Parker, Economic Development Office.
“There are often unintended consequences with new projects like this, I think we saw that this morning with the people who came in to talk about the cannabis grows in their neighborhood,” Swarthout said. “I want to make sure the public is fully aware and that there is a lot of public input and insight into the process.”
Swarthout’s comments were referring to four residents on Meyers Ravine Road who spoke during public comment urging the board not to approve a permit for a 4,9995 square foot mixed light cannabis cultivation, according to Matthew Kelley, Nevada County senior planner.
“There are several deficiencies of infrastructure along Meyer Ravine Road,” Jeanne Franklin, a neighbor objecting to the commercial cannabis grow said.
“The road is a dead end, narrow, unevenly paved county road which handles light traffic….It is unsuitable for …the proposals for a 5,000 square foot commercial building and three 3,000 square foot greenhouses."
Increased traffic, noise, lighting at night and odors from harvesting were key objections to the supervisors approving the commercial cannabis grow, according to Franklin.
More information was requested by Franklin from the board of supervisors of how they and other residents in Nevada County could become an exclusionary zone where neighbors do not want the industry as mentioned in a Nevada County board meeting in January 2023.
“Let’s nip this in the bud and end this commercial grow,” Franklin said.
A second public speaker was concerned about the quality and quantity of groundwater.
“If they intend on importing water…with the use of heavy trucks will destroy our private road. Autumn Yoder, a neighbor of the proposed commercial cannabis grow said. “A residential neighborhood is no place for a commercial pot grow. It simply will not be safe for my children to play.”
Two other residents expressed their opposition to the permitting of the project.
Increased traffic, increases in transients in the area to trim the plants, the potential for residential wells to run dry, air quality concerns, potential pesticide pollution and fear of individuals robbing the facility were reasons written in the petition sponsored by Franklin which collected over 115 signatures from other members in the community.
“We were not notified of these permits. It was by chance that the homeowners found out when paid surveyors were on our road,” according to information Franklin included in a petition.
Ed Scofield visited the properties of neighbors along Meyer Ravine Road on April 4, 2023, after receiving many emails, phone calls and the list of signatures against that particular permit for a commercial cannabis grow.
“We’ve dealt with illegal black market grows for years with little success,” Scofield said in an email to Franklin. “Once California made cannabis legal, we had to create an ordinance that allowed for permitted cannabis operations. This operation, which is not a huge grow, is going through the legal process. If a permit is obtained, we are able to monitor the operation. We can go on site at any time and rectify any violation of the permit. This is not a black market operation.”