At the Yolo County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, March 21, the Board voted 3-1 to delay cannabis policy discussions indefinitely. I voted against this action and Supervisor Rexroad was absent.
The Board’s action on March 21st is a change from the most recent direction by the Board at our February 21st meeting. At our meeting on February 21st, the Board of Supervisors agreed to direct county staff to prepare for a series of discussions on a variety of cannabis policy issues with the intent of learning more and offering guidance for a comprehensive cannabis ordinance in the future.
The Board’s February 21st direction set in motion a plan for ten policy discussions on a variety of cannabis topics over the course of monthly meetings throughout 2017. In addition, the Board directed staff to develop community engagement approaches to gain insights into the interests and concerns of Yolo County residents.
The March 21st agenda item presented to the Board by Yolo County staff included analyses and a decision framework for consideration of cannabis policies related to manufacturing, dispensaries, distribution, deliveries, nurseries, and product testing laboratories. In addition, the staff report included a recommendation to move forward with a revenue measure for consideration in 2017.
However, at the March 21st meeting, with a 3-1 vote, the Board chose not to consider the policy framework, choosing instead to postpone further consideration of cannabis issues at a later date. They also requested an update approximately six months regarding the implementation of the existing cultivation ordinance, the fee structure and the advancement of the pilot track and trace program. I voted in opposition to the delay in policy review because I believe our county would be better served by continuing the policy discussions and engagement.
At the March 21st meeting, Board members expressed understandable concerns with implementing cannabis policy without a secured revenue source and the uncertainty of pending state regulations. I share these concerns, but believe we would benefit from deeper policy discussions as we work through these points. Permit fees collected from current licensed cultivating sites can only be used to cover costs associated with the permitting process. Funds raised from a cannabis tax measure could be used for any General Fund purpose as determined by the Board of Supervisors. For example, the revenue could be used for other cannabis-related costs such as code enforcement for non-permitted grows and education campaigns regarding impacts to health and children. Revenues from a tax measure would not be limited to cannabis-related items, but could be used for any general fund need such as roads, health and human services, childcare, an Adult Day Health Center and other areas. In the absence of a unanimous vote to put a tax measure on the 2017 ballot, the earliest a measure could be considered by voters is the June 2018 election.
I think it would be wise to consider the merits and concerns with various aspects of cannabis regulation in Yolo County before State regulations are in place. We should thoughtfully discern our course of action and deliberately engage our broader community in this discussion to find a path that fits Yolo County.
The world of the cannabis industry holds many possibilities and pitfalls. There are many questions we should be addressing as we look ahead. How should our local policies for medicinal use and non-medicinal adult use interact? How can we prevent access by children and assure public safety? Should the County have a prominent role in testing for pesticides to assure consumer confidence, similar to what we do for tomatoes and other agricultural products? What products should be tested for pesticides and when should the testing occur? Should value-add processing and manufacturing be permitted and should they be allowed to collaborate with cultivation sites? Should dispensaries be allowed in the unincorporated areas? If so, what siting parameters should be considered? Should we regulate deliveries? What is the best enforcement method? What can we learn from communities, like Sonoma County, that have already adopted a comprehensive local ordinance? These are just some of the questions I would like our county to examine in preparation for our implementation of cannabis legalization in the time ahead.
In the November 2016 election, more than 60% of Yolo County voters said YES to Proposition 64: California Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The proposition passed in all five Yolo County Supervisor Districts, including in District 2 by 70% and District 4 by more than 65%. A City of Davis revenue measure on the June 2016 ballot passed with a 79% YES vote. Even as far back as 1996, Yolo County voters voted YES by 59% (above the state YES vote of 55%) for the Compassionate Use Act legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes.
I agree with the staff recommendations on February 21st and March 21st to continue with the calendar of policy discussions so that we are prepared to consider local ordinances after state regulations for Proposition 64 are implemented. I also agree that any new ordinances can be adopted with a provision that requires passage of a revenue measure prior to implementation.
I look forward to working with my colleagues and connecting with the community to become more informed, engage in dialogue and dream big on how Yolo County could be a leader in research and cultivation of medical cannabis, as well as consider together how and if non-medicinal adult use fits in our county.
Together we can create an ordinance that captures the interests and strengths of our community. As always, you can email me at email@example.com to share your thoughts on this topic.
In shared service,