Supes table commercial cannabis cultivation discussion

The supervisors are continuing to not move too quickly when it comes to commercial cannabis cultivation.

During the Tuesday, Jan. 26 meeting, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors opted to table the matter again, and the board directed staff to look into the county’s tax measure and information on commercial cultivation or a pilot project before bringing it back for further discussion.

Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon noted there was a chance for the county to acquire some Prop 64 funds to help enforce illegal grows — maybe about $1 million — if the county allows commercial cannabis cultivation, either indoor or outdoor; however, he also shared his concerns with opening up commercial cultivation.

“The main thing we’ve got to consider is if the county is open to commercial cultivation or not, that’s something for the board consider and it’s important to hear from the public and see what their take is. Unfortunately, marijuana is not going away, but at the same time I’m not ready if our county’s not ready to support cultivation operations,” Growdon said.

If the county does move forward the sheriff’s recommendation, he noted, would be for very limited indoor operations.

“I think it would be a lot easier to regulate and manage. I am totally opposed to massive, outdoor cultivation at this point,” he said.

However, while concerned about the negative impacts, Growdon also said it’s hard for his department to effectively target hidden illegal grows, some he thinks might be linked to organized crime, without staff dedicated year round. The funding from Prop 64 would be allocated to fund staff in law enforcement, planning and building and the tax office to help mitigate illegal grows, targeting them early on.

Additionally, Lassen County Treasure Tax Collector Nancy Cardenas shared the voter approved Measure M doesn’t have the “teeth” she needs in order to recoup funds from illegal grows, although County Administrative Officer Richard Egan countered it seemed like there was more difficulty in collecting the tax than the assessment of the tax.

“So even if they send these bills over to me, I don’t have a lot of authority to collect them. And you can see that this year, our second year doing this,” Cardenas said, adding this was a commercial cannabis measure, not a punitive tax measure.

Egan, as well as some supervisors, noted if there are issues with Measure M the county should have a discussion to hear about the problem and work on it.

Lassen County Ag Commissioner Craig Hemphill also weighed in, saying it doesn’t seem like commercial cultivation is the money making opportunity it was said to be, with only about 6,200 licensed operations in the state, adding his department was already struggling to keep up with hemp regulations.

Overall, the supervisors were in unison with not wanting illegal grows and said they weren’t cannabis advocates.

“I don’t see an answer for curbing these illegal grows. I just don’t. Unless we get some resources dedicated to them. So what other avenues do we have?” asked supervisor Tom Hammond.

Hammond later continued saying the options seemed like doing nothing, or taking a look at restrictive commercial operations to see how it could benefit the county.

Supervisor Chris Gallagher said the board could not keep “its head in the sand,” since cannabis was already here.

Gallagher suggested he’d like to go back and look to see if a indoor pilot program for cultivation would be legal.

“We need to give the planning department some direction. My direction would be talk to sheriff, find out what the sheriff wants, how it could make his job easier to get illegal grows and work from there,” Gallagher said, noting concern the county may not have anything in place should the current presidential administration legalize cannabis.

Board chairman Aaron Albaugh questioned why this was back on the agenda already after being tabled in early December, and suggested this come back after COVID and during an evening meeting. He also asked Growdon if it was easy to fill vacant positions, should the county receive funds, which Growdon said was difficult currently.

Supervisor Gary Bridges noted his concern with the county being flooded with growers should the county approve the title amendment, and said he didn’t trust the state of California enough to rely on the Prop 64 funds.

Supervisor Jeff Hemphill said the county needs to take a look at Measure M, adding the county can’t do nothing.

Albaugh noted the county needed to break up the matter in segments before looking into allowing commercial cultivation, such as the funding and any Measure M issues and bring the matter back after COVID.