At our January 9th Board meeting, the Board voted 4-1 in favor of a policy framework that will allow us to move forward with developing Yolo County’s cannabis program. I voted in favor of this proposal because it offers a balanced path forward. This proposal has three primary components:
1. June 2018 Tax Measure – The Board will review a proposed ordinance at our January 23rd meeting to place a tax measure on the June, 2018 ballot. This measure, if approved by a majority of voters, would tax commercial cannabis businesses in the unincorporated areas of Yolo County at levels from 1% to 15% of gross receipts. The Board agreed to an initial tax on cultivation businesses at 4% for each of the first two years and 5% for the third year. I think this is a reasonable starting point and will allow the County to generate revenue for enforcement actions against illegal activities, investments in rural communities, and other budget priorities, and allow the cannabis industry some predictability on costs as they grow their business.
2. Fast Track Development Agreements – The County will enter into a limited number of development agreements with existing cultivation license holders. A development agreement provides a business certainty in regulations for a set period of time in exchange for meeting additional performance standards and public benefits beyond the standard process. Initial development agreements will be limited to locations that we are confident will meet our performance standards, such as odor mitigation. We will also allow additional license types within these development agreements, such as manufacturing and processing. This is a priority for me. According to the HDL fiscal analysis of the cannabis industry, “the manufacturing segment is growing and expanding, and offers lots of opportunity for innovation and job creation.” Similar to other value-added processing in the agriculture industry, we could benefit from keeping this business and revenue local in Yolo County.
3. Land Use Regulatory Framework – The Board reaffirmed the development of land use regulations for siting and permitting commercial cannabis cultivation. Of note, this process will now include consideration of additional cannabis license categories so there is an established process should the Board choose to approve additional activities in the future. The land use regulatory approach will consider zoning, conditional use approval criteria, public noticing of potential sites and comprehensive programmatic environmental review. Upon completion of this process in March 2019, those seeking cannabis licenses will go through a process that will allow for public input and oversight.
In addition, we discussed establishing a community advisory oversight group to advise on revenues and spending allocations. I believe that Yolo County should engage cannabis businesses and other community members in an ongoing advisory process to strengthen our policy framework.
As we move forward in a collaborative spirit, I support regulating the legal cannabis industry in order to enhance public safety, improve product safety, reduce environmental degradation, and support job creation and economic development. At our Board meeting I quoted Winston Churchill noting that “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it may be the end of the beginning.”
As always, I’m continuing to keep an open mind and I look forward to hearing from you additional thoughts that we should consider.
In shared service,
Click here, to watch the video of the January 9th Board meeting.