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Cannabis Cultivation in Yolo County

Are you interested in Yolo County’s regulations related to Cannabis cultivation? Check out these Frequently Asked Questions for a summary.

In response to California’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), Yolo County adopted an interim ordinance in March 2016 for cultivation of medical cannabis. The interim ordinance allows personal cultivation up to 100 square feet, prohibits grows within 1,000 feet of a youth-oriented facility or within 75 feet of an occupied residence, and requires permits from Yolo County and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board Central Valley Region.

In November 2016 the Board adopted a fee structure to cover costs associated with regulating medical cannabis cultivation in Yolo County.

The primary reasons we allow cultivation is to enable the County to regulate this activity to protect against illegal and harmful pesticide use and contamination of the water supply, to provide a heightened set of code enforcement tools and to protect residents of the County from illegal activities.

We estimate that there are as many as 800-1000 current cultivation sites within Yolo County, presumably most are small personal use sites. By adopting our own regulation, Yolo County has more control than allowing the state to regulate within Yolo County. The Ag Commissioner reported that 40 growers are fully permitted in Yolo County, and expects 20 or more have pending applications with the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Since the interim ordinance was enacted, the Ag department has received and resolved over 15 complaints and initiated three compliance actions. The ordinance has provided a path for residents to voice concerns. On October 11th the Board of Supervisors heard from residents, patients and growers regarding proposed amendments to the interim Yolo County Medical Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance.

As Yolo County continues to develop a comprehensive cannabis cultivation ordinance, policy decisions we will be exploring include:

  • Revenue structure to fund education and public health costs of legalization;

  • Registration process to provide a streamlined process for parcel and site review;

  • Track and trace programs to verify the product is used for its intended purpose;

  • The appropriate distance from cultivation sites to youth-oriented facilities and other land uses;

  • Consider if nurseries should have different considerations than cultivators; and

  • Linkage of this ordinance with solar and other energy policies.

The cannabis regulation context is evolving at the state level with the phased in approach of the state MMRSA legislation and with the passage of the statewide ballot measure (Proposition 64) to legalize adult use of recreation cannabis for non-medical purposes.

Following discussion our Board voted 3-2 to develop an amended interim cultivation ordinance would allow those legally operating as of October 11, 2016 at 5PM, or have a pending notice of intent to the water board, to continue to operate. No new commercial cultivation permits will be issued until the County develops and implements a more comprehensive medical cannabis regulation.

While I appreciate the intent of this direction, I voted against this decision as I felt it was unfair to those trying to become legal in our process. I believe that if we want to pause and slow down the efforts, we should provide more notice.

We are all pioneers with this topic, however I think it is important we continue the conversation. A recent study estimates up to 20,000 new jobs and $4.2 billion in annual output in the cannabis sector if supportive local policies are implemented in the Sacramento region. Proposition 64, legalizing adult use of marijuana, passed with 60.5% voter approval in Yolo County.

We are learning about a widespread existing industry not like other agricultural commodities. There are issues related to farms, processing, manufacturing, product safety, access to markets, pesticide and water issues, and many other dimensions. We have an opportunity to create the space for more research and better understand the medical aspects of cannabis. The more of these existing operations we legally permit, the more we will be able to regulate for public safety.

I look forward to our continued efforts to discern what is right for Yolo County.