The Board of Supervisors’ moratorium discussion, public comment, supervisor summaries, and its vote on October 24th was a good civic gathering, even though the atmosphere was tense. It would seem (with a unanimous board vote for the moratorium) that the issues are now settled, but that is far from true. The moratorium lasts only 45 days, and by that time it either needs to be renewed (extending to a full year) or an ordinance needs to have been adopted. Barring that, the local option to regulate cannabis cultivation in Plumas County will expire, placing regulatory authority in the hands of the state.
Some of our opposite numbers spoke about the needs of medical consumers. We do not seek to thwart access to medical marijuana, nor do we seek to prevent access to recreational marijuana, which is now legal. We are concerned about large-scale cultivation of marijuana.
Being part of the Citizens Group for a Responsible Cannabis Ordinance (CGRCO), I was gratified to see a strong showing for our point of view at the October 24th meeting, with many long-time citizens of this community speaking out against commercial cannabis cultivation. A number of them represented the concerns of many local institutions, expressing a variety of worries about the problems large grows have caused elsewhere and the consequences of an expansion of those problems if an excessively permissive ordinance is adopted here.
My own comments at that meeting focused on the municipal water supply that we pump from a limited number of wells; they must pass strict chemical tests or be shut down. If our water supply for 4,000 residents in the populated sections of American Valley (Quincy) is reduced, it’s not just drinking water but storage for fire suppression that could be threatened, too. We have ways of returning wells to service after biologic contaminants are detected, but we have no fixes for surface runoff containing toxic poisons or super-charged concentrations of fertilizers, both of which are commonly used in outdoor commercial cannabis grows.
One commercial-grow proponent commented that citizens in the no-commercial grow community are old, well-fixed, and have no empathy for younger folks who just want to support their families via agriculture. What this speaker seemed to miss was that when one has been part of a community for decades, one values the rural lifestyle we enjoy here. We have raised children here, been intertwined with a variety of local institutions, causes, projects, fundraisers, and yes, struggles—this is something we want to protect, and it is true that we won’t surrender what we have built here lightly.
We are engaged in this effort because we’ve already made a significant investment in Plumas County, and we are motivated to protect what has been built. Our posture is not designed to constrain ambitious young people from engaging in agricultural endeavors or entrepreneurship. However, we do not want the growing of commercial cannabis to be the vehicle through which they pursue their goals, as that course of action threatens everything we have come to love about Plumas County.
Our motivation to oppose commercial cannabis cultivation comes from the wish to protect our youth’s options to pursue their dreams, inside or outside Plumas County. It comes from the desire to encourage visitors to fall in love with this region and to move here, helping to support our tax base and increasing local participation in our community.
One of the more interesting speakers on the 24th was a widow from Graeagle who noted how many young people would limit their career choices if they could not pass a drug test prior to being hired or failed a random drug test during employment. The list of such jobs was long, and she advised parents to ready their basements for returning unemployed children.
The promise of more county budget revenue as a result of blossoming of commercial grows has not been kept in other counties and states where commercial grows have been approved.
The costs to counties for monitoring and enforcing ordinances have outstripped any revenue gained, while crime (some of it violent) has moved in. Calaveras County is the poster child for an ordinance passed with hopes and fanfare—but today it is being reversed, and the clean-up costs for environmental damage are estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It is this “get an inch, take a mile” pattern with MRB (Marijuana Related Businesses) that causes a defensive citizen response.
When the Plumas Cannabis Working Group’s draft ordinance surfaced in the summer of 2017, it finally caught the attention of more citizens because of its sprint away from land use regulations embodied in the General Plan, the California Environmental Quality Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. That’s a serious departure from previous norms guaranteeing existing landowners certain rights and protections for their land and lifestyle as opposed to proposed new uses by adjacent landowners.
The Supervisors are to be applauded for approving a moratorium. The CGRCO has a ready ordinance that will prohibit commercial cannabis grows and outdoor growing of any plants. It will be presented to the Plumas Board of Supervisors soon. You can help by writing your supervisor and staying tuned to this website for continuing opportunities to help get our ordinance adopted.
~Bill Martin, CGRCO