Wherever you go in Plumas County, from road signs to opinion pieces and websites, you find varying opinions on Measure B, the county’s land use ordinance for cannabis cultivation. It has proven a topic of much controversy. To help voters understand Measure B better, Plumas Action Network is hosting a public forum to discuss it. It will feature the measure’s authors, as well as its fierce opposition.
Measure B Public Forum
The Quincy Library will be the venue for the forum on Wednesday, October 10, from six p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and everyone is welcome to attend. Jeff Cunan, attorney and former prosecutor, will act as moderator. The forum will mimic the format of League of Women Voter events. Each side will open with a statement and the public will then have an opportunity to ask any questions they may still have.
“Being an informed voter is critical for all of us in Plumas County,” explained Amber Hughes, a member of the Plumas Action Network. “Our goal is to put aside questions of morality and judgment and focus on the land use ordinance itself.” Much of the controversy, many believe, is due to a misunderstanding of Measure B. Some favor commercial cannabis cultivation, others not.
Another member of the Plumas Action Network, Marty Walters, was the one to suggest the forum. As a Congressional candidate, Walters traveled Northern California attending similar events in other counties. She has vast experience on how to organize a forum and in attracting public participation in them. People have many concerns related to marijuana activities in their immediate communities.
According to the Network, “The most effective forums are those that get to issues directly affecting voters. We want people to come with specific concerns about their neighborhoods and how this ordinance will change Plumas County and its economy.” If voters approve it, change will be inevitable, but for the most part, it will improve the lives of many in the community.
Understanding Measure B
Measure B is an inroad for growers who could not get licensing approval during their working group days. Measure B is a commercial cannabis utopia. It has everything that local pot proponents could ever desire. Count the potential licenses in Plumas and one gets 70 for growing and 112 for retail, distribution, manufacture, and testing. “Type 9” retailer licenses have no limit. What does this mean?
Number of Licenses
Measure B allows 11 different cultivation licenses. They vary in size, both indoors and outdoors, with differing lighting outdoors. There are also four processing, manufacturing, and testing licenses, as well as five licenses for both storefront and non-storefront dispensaries, retailers, and distribution. Type 12, or micro-business, licenses are for those growing less than 10,000 square feet and distributing, manufacturing, or testing themselves.
There are 20 licenses available under Measure B. Each Plumas district will allow four of them. There are even licenses available for public event organizing. Every license is renewable permanently and transferrable to family heirs. Local pot companies have first option to tie up any of them, even all of them. However, are they ready if Measure B gets approval?
There are three categories of cultivation licenses. Type I permits less than 5,000 square feet of growing space. Type II licenses allow up to 10,000 square feet. Type III licenses are for big companies wanting to cultivate up to an acre. However, there is a license limit of 50 in Classes I, II, and III, as well as 20 licenses for micro-businesses cultivating less than 10,000 square feet.
Other license limits are for 6 retail shops, eight for distribution, two for testing, and 10 for manufacturing. This is a complex assortment. Furthermore, a recent county impact report was not encouraging considering the costs. According to the report, funds raised through licenses and taxation will not cover rising expenses.
These issues are consistent with the experience of other rural jurisdictions. It would need a fast adjustment in several offices to an unknown workload, which would slow regular processing of public business. If Measure B passes, the Planning Commission’s workload would slowly stop, since all public deliberation for regulating commercial cannabis would come to a halt.
Although Measure B’s authors insist that there is no need under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, for an environmental impact assessment, many disagree. The state will not abide by such a massive change in zoning and land use. Since the county pays for all analysis efforts, not cultivators, there is risk of lobbyists overwhelming the say of voters.
Dealing with Cash
Under Measure B, in addition to licensing fees, Plumas County would impose a two-percent tax initially on net profits in cannabis companies. This would eventually grow to six percent. Because the industry works on a mainly cash basis, assessing profits could prove trying. You may be able to prove expenses, but it is impossible to verify claimed revenues in cash-only businesses. Can the county trust growers?
The same would apply to distributors, retailers, and other licensed pot companies. There simply is no way to verify the claims of growers and sellers, since nobody can pinpoint expenses and revenues. Not even hordes of auditors could solve this problem, even if they manage to audit every transaction. Until banks can offer legal services to pot businesses, even estimates are pie in the sky.
Possibly the biggest risk of Measure B is its “priority resident” licensing. You have to live in Plumas County for at least two years before you can even qualify to apply. This gives priority to residents, which is good, but they will quickly snap up every license. This would effectively box out non-residents; even violate the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment of “equal protection under law.”
This residency priority is a lawsuit in the making. Outside players will likely sue the county and win for excluding them unconstitutionally. If this occurs, the county will be the defendant and taxpayers will foot the bill. Citizens are unhappy about the financial implications of this. As it stands, everyone is in suspense about what would happen, and nobody knows how long it will take to get clarification.
Those against Measure B understandably do want to end up in court or pay for it. Many are decidedly opposed to commercializing cannabis this way, which seems to serve a few at the expense of many. The ballot imitative, according to some, is itself unconstitutional, giving rights to some without protecting the majority.
Communities have already seen much change since California legalized medical and recreational cannabis. At the state level, licensing should merge the cultivation and distribution of both medical and adult-use pot into one program, with one consistent approach. However, in Plumas County, Measure B has major flaws. Once passed, it cannot be fine-tuned later. Clearly, public discussion is crucial.