Calaveras County supervisors are awaiting a Planning Department report that could help them draft an ordinance to revive commercial cannabis farming. A hastily drafted urgency ordinance adopted in 2016 that permitted commercial grows was repealed last year after a torrent of complaints.
In February, the supervisors, including its two new board members Merita Callaway and Ben Stopper, directed Calaveras County Planning Director Peter Maurer to draw up a list of issues that they need to address in any new ordinance that permits commercial grows. Those include a cap on the number of farms that would be permitted – an issue raised by department heads who complained that the earlier ordinance overwhelmed county resources. They also include questions about zoning, minimum lot sizes, setbacks, indoor and outdoor or mixed-light operations, whether someone must reside on the farm property, and how ownership transfers would be handled.
Supervisors discussed a cap of 100 permits and limiting applicants to persons who are previously registered, state-licensed farmers. More than 700 people applied for permits under the previous ordinance. The county rejected 335 of those applications and 60 were withdrawn by the applicants. The county had issued 194 permits before the program ended last year.
After supervisors banned commercial grows in 2018, growers filed a $16.4 million class-action lawsuit against the county, seeking to recover taxes and fees they had paid. That suit is still pending.
Maurer is expected to present his report to the board this month. Any new ordinance likely will not be adopted in time for this year’s grow season.