Local growers have been lamenting the public outcry against commercial cannabis activity. They say that they “won the right” to grow commercially with Prop. 215 (the Compassionate Use Act of 1996) and Prop. 64 (Adult Recreational Use 2016). These propositions only guarantee the individual right to grow 6 plants. The municipalities and counties are in the first position to determine whether or not to permit commercial activity.
To date, according to one Southern California cannabis consultant, 73% of counties (unincorporated areas within counties) and incorporated cities have banned commercial cannabis activity through ordinances or a moratorium. (https://www.scpr.org/news/2017/12/05/78423/buying-legal-marijuana-california/)
Our county is part of that 73%. But many of our citizens believe that the right enforcement arm of the county is not empowered to shoulder the responsibility of enforcing the ban on commercial cannabis activity. We believe this responsibility should be placed in the hands of the sheriff’s department.
Two weeks ago a group of Plumas County leaders met to discuss how to best enforce the Marijuana Moratorium Ordinance. Supervisors Thrall and Engel, County Counsel Craig Settlemire, Sheriff Hagwood and his undersheriff, Jerry Sipe Director of Environmental Health, Planning Director Randy Wilson and County Building Official Chuck White were in attendance. As the January 31 issue of the Feather River Bulletin article by Carolyn Ship noted, the county supervisors have been inundated with emails from county residents who want the cannabis moratorium enforced and wonder how this is going to be accomplished.
Enforcement must “beat the growing season” or it will have little to no effect.
This meeting was one of two that occurred at the request of Chuck White, who will supervise the code enforcement officer. Traditionally this position has responded to citizen complaints about such things as lot line violations, ill kept property, unlicensed junkyards, unsanitary living conditions and other public nuisances, including cannabis cultivation. Supervisor Lori Simpson in the same article was asked: “Who is going to enforce the cannabis moratorium?” She is reported to have said the county has not had a code enforcement official for more than a year… and when we have one that official may request the help of a sheriff’s deputy when needed.
It does not appear that there will be a code enforcement officer any time soon. From what I have been able to ascertain, the building official has not been able to yet recruit a code enforcement officer for a number of reasons. The job description has changed, requiring union review and approval. This alone could take months, because the union does not understand the need for the changes. If union approval is obtained, the human resources department and county counsel must review the changes.
Once this takes place the Board of Supervisors must agenda the job description for discussion and approval. The position would then be advertised for at least 30 days; candidate applications must be reviewed, followed by interviews, selection of a successful candidate, and background checks. Then there would have to a training period. It is very possible that this process could go on until late fall or winter.
Come spring when cannabis growers begin to plant, they would have cause for rejoicing for, as things stand there will be no enforcement arm for the county ban on commercial cultivation.
Our citizens are not raising their voices about lot line violations, ill kept property, unlicensed junkyards, even though these nuisances are of concern. But they pray that our leaders will act immediately so that the most effective arm of the county code and law enforcement will be in charge of enforcing the moratorium.
Even if the situation were different and we presently had a code enforcement officer in place, would it be wise to send someone who was not a law enforcement officer to enforce the moratorium? Growers are often armed and they may have attack dogs protecting their crop, as is commonplace in counties that have permitted commercial cultivation. Only sworn safety officers have experience going into harms way. Sheriff’s deputies have experience dealing with people who are violating laws and ordinances.
They are trained to use discretion and good judgment when they are in a situation that may be volatile. Moreover, Sheriff Hagwood is a seasoned professional who has led his department in a way that has brought acclaim and honor to local law enforcement. For these reasons I appeal to our Board of Supervisors to place the sheriff’s department in the first position to enforce the moratorium.
Joseph J. Muñoz
Feather River College