Supes Gorin and Hopkins push board to extend cannabis permit deadline in Sonoma County


(photo:First District Supervisor Gorin spoke to the attendees. A town hall meeting was held on Monday, July 18, 2016 at the Veterans Memorial Hall to discuss the implications of legalizing marijuana in California)

It’s the most urgent matter I’ve seen before the board of supervisors. The financial implications are severe for the farmers.”

After a less-than-expected response to Sonoma County’s first round of cannabis cultivation permitting, Sonoma County Supervisors and Cannabis Ad Hoc Committee members Susan Gorin and Lynda Hopkins have officially asked the board to consider a proposal to extend the initial filing deadline. Slated for Aug. 31, the Penalty Relief Program was meant to bring many of the estimated 5,000 local cannabis growers out of the shadows.

Presented as a financial incentive for growers to file for permits and avoid steep penalties and land-use fines, about 50 growers have applied. Of those, no one who applied has yet been granted a permit, according to the Sonoma County Cannabis Program.

The cost to file for a permit can cost between $2,000 and $13,000 and does not include numerous reports that require outside consulting — from groundwater and hazardous waste to cultural resource assessments on whether there may be any tribal archeological artifacts.

Cultivators and industry reps have been concerned about the deadline for months, and at an August 16 meeting of the Cannabis Advisory Group (20 Sonoma County residents chosen to represent a wide swath of interests in the local green rush), the issue of extending the deadline was one of the key topic brought up by the public and identified as something the group would like to weigh in on. Supporters of an extension also spoke at the Aug 21 Supervisors meeting, and numerous calls and emails to the County have echoed the concern.

There are no meetings of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors scheduled before the Aug. 31 deadline, so there’s little chance of an extension to be voted on before the deadline passes. The issue has been scheduled for the next Supervisors’ meeting on Sept. 12, and a draft staff report is slated to be released “as soon as possible” according to a press release from the County Cannabis Program.

“We understand that there are many questions about the specifics of what this proposal may look like, such as time frames, retroactivity, zoning limitations, etc. This information will be made public as part of the finalized staff report,” said the release.

Press Democrat Cannabis reporter Julie Johnson outlined the issues facing the supervisors, as well as feedback from the industry. Read the full story here.