Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Stop Phase 3 Cannabis Expansion from ‘Devastating Mendocino County,’ Says 3rd District Supervisor John Haschak


The following is a monthly letter written by Mendocino County’s 3rd District Supervisor John Haschak to constituents:

[Picture provided by Supervisor Haschak]

Stop Phase Three from Devastating Mendocino County

The proposed Phase 3 Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance endangers our environment, communities, and local economy. The expansion proposed by the BOS in both acreage and zoning has the potential to dramatically change what our county will be. I strongly oppose this proposal.

We can already see environmental damage from supposedly small grows. In this time of drought, local residents fear that massive use of water for growing cannabis will dry up wells and springs, leaving people short of water for the essentials of life. Wildlife will suffer as animals become more desperate as riverbeds and waterholes dry up. The cumulative impacts of this expansion need to be studied yet the Board frantically tries to pass this new ordinance before July 1 without doing an environmental impact report. This is our environment where we live. 

Communities will change giving us hoop houses instead of pastoral vistas. Food and regular agriculture will not be able to compete as land prices skyrocket. Food production will be converted to cannabis production. Prime ag lands and vulnerable range lands will be rocked over, plastics will cover the land, and hoop houses will multiply. Guard dogs and higher security will dominate our country roads, valleys and hillsides. Code enforcement and law enforcement have already lost control of the situation. These changes will greatly accelerate if the Board passes this ordinance without addressing the dangers. When the boom bursts, which it will, whoever and whatever is left will have a lot of cleaning up to do.

We shape our economy and communities with our policy decisions. That is why you don’t see McDonalds in Mendocino. Phase 3 could devastate mom and pop growers while huge cannabis grows proliferate. Wall Street investors, buying up land for profit are instigating a race to the bottom, damaging our local economy by bringing cheap labor and extracting profits to benefit far-away private equity funds. 

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Mendocino County has failed to properly implement Phase I and II of the ordinance. Permits were wrongly granted.  Out of the 1,100 in the county permit system, only a handful have received state annual licenses which is what is needed to grow legally after January 1, 2022. Code enforcement can’t keep up. Law enforcement has been overwhelmed by illegal grows. Yet somehow some Board members believe that this new ordinance, opening up range land and expanding grow sites will make everything right. Wishful thinking. A much bigger mess is ahead of us if we go down this path. 

In a democracy, the elected representatives need to listen to the people. The Planning Commission received over 400 letters. 99% were against this expansion. The Sheriff, Farm Bureau, Municipal Advisory Councils of Laytonville, Redwood Valley and Round Valley, Willits and Mendocino Environmental Centers, Covelo Cannabis Advocacy Group, and many other groups are against this proposal. Big cannabis businesses are for it. 

Please make your voices heard by writing to  or calling the Board before the April 19 meeting. 

If the BOS decides not to listen, then the people need to be able to vote on this issue. 

Looking ahead, Mendocino County needs to reject this idea of expansion of acreage and zoning, perform an Environmental Impact Report, and fund code and law enforcement to enforce the rules we have, The future of Mendocino County is at stake. 

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  1. The future of cannabis farming will have to follow the new leaders in profitable large scale industrial agriculture in order to survive. Today’s leaders in large scale industrial agriculture are using a living soil system that is regenerative to the soil. Their soil is no longer treated like an ever reducing expense account. Their soil turns into a savings account that grows and can last for centuries.

    Today the majority of US farms operate under a failed agricultural system that relies too heavily on wealth accumulated by unsustainable extraction and government subsidies. We witnessed the collapse of the family farm. We designed a taxpayer funded farm subsidy system, even with consolidation and operations of scale we witnessed the collapse of the mega farm and their bail out by the American taxpayers.

    We have a path towards a sustainable and profitable model. Farmers are breaking free from the government subsidies / welfare model. We are in an agricultural revolution. We are seeing farmers getting off of government subsidies, while maintaining or increasing yield. At the same time getting a higher price for their product and greatly reducing their input costs. When the harvest is done their soil is in better condition than when they started. This is being done on a large scale, one individual agronomy consulting firm is consulting on over 2 million acres alone. The end results are Cattle ranchers that are producing beef with the same omega ratios as salmon. Large processed food manufacturers like General Mills are footing the bill and are working with farmers to transfer them over to a living soil system. We are witnessing substantially higher nutrient density levels in produce. It is such an effective farm system that Bayer, the owners of Monsanto, is touting it as the future of farming. Of course they tweaked it so Bayer’s farmers will have to use glyphosate resistant cover crops so the dusters can keep spraying.

    Today in Mendocino we are also at a crossroads. We are fortunate to have one road with legacy farmers that pioneered regenerative living soil systems. We can follow these farmers and build environmentally sound systems that will have long term economic viability. These farmers are willing to train their competitors, they are willing to subsidize our local industry by using their own land to build it. They are offering millions of dollars in property and decades of experience to establish a stable industry based on a circular economy, so our community can all rise together. Legacy farmers are promoting a manageable expansion that is inclusive of our community.

    The other road is based on the failed system of a boom bust extractive model where the goal is to race to the bottom to consolidate and put competitors out of business. We can already see the writing on the wall with outside interests promoting less exclusive zoning to put legacy farmers out of business, and promoting discriminatory behavior towards law abiding legacy farmers. They are saying legacy farmers are outlaws by default and therefore guilty by broad stroke association. We are seeing inflated property prices by outside speculators. Those outside interests in favor of expansion are promoting the success of neighboring counties. Take for instance mega farms in Lake county who use a cultivation model of man made fabric pots and imported grow medium only to produce low weights and low quality because they lack the experience. The systems they are modeling were used when the product was 4 times the price and not taxed by 3 different levels of government. Just because venture capitalists can spend money doesn’t mean the projects will pencil out.

    Who do we want to build a new industry? Legacy farmers who have mentored their competitors so they could prosper too. Legacy farmers that have raised their family’s in Mendocino for generations, have invested in the community, and volunteered in the community. Or do we want large out of town interests that extract the funds from our community. Venture capitalists want to set up a system that pays farmers two cents on the dollar. Legacy farmers want to work for 6 to 10 cents on the dollar. This can be achieved because they are the head farmer and CEO, more often than not they live on the premises too. This all adds up to more money in our community.

    We have spent 4 years working with the county and state to build a working system. We have patiently waited, and now all of the sudden the word is we need to hurry up and if we can’t do it quickly then we won’t be involved at all. We don’t even have 5 % of the retail locations we had before Prop 64. This industry has many more years to get on track and we have plenty of farms already. The holes in our supply chain is the lack of quality product not quantity. What is our best chance of producing quality in Mendocino? Who is most likely going to choose what is right for the land and the community as a whole? We need a phase 3. We need more inclusiveness in zoning as a path for legacy farmers. Legacy farmers have put their money where their mouth is and agreed to embark on this risky journey with a 10k sq ft cap. Giving them the ability to expand to 4 times the size will give them the ability to better survive the pending price drop.

    Cannabis is legal, it is here to stay. Do you want to endure the growing pains of building an industry while working with local families or outside venture capitalists.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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