Welcome to our letters to the editor/opinion section. To submit yours for consideration, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please consider including an image to be used–either a photograph of you or something applicable to the letter. However, an image is not necessary for publication. Remember opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of MendoFever.
A recent statement made by County Supervisor Haschak published in the Willits News about the proposed Phase 3 Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance stokes fear of “devastating” effects and spreads misinformation about environmental damage from legal cannabis in the same way photographs that are published by the Ukiah Daily Journal of reported trashed cannabis cultivation sites not identified as either legal/illegal could be seen in almost any County in California. Where is the site and is the premises licensed by CDFA? The facts are important because they reveal the truth about the current state of Proposition 64 and cannabis cultivation in Mendocino County which most all would agree isn’t working for the residents of Mendocino County.
The CDFA has issued 791 cultivation licenses excluding processor, nursery, and indoor. The canopy square feet of the 791 licensed premises is 147 acres or 8,174 square feet per license. Designation as a mom or pop or legacy or artisan cultivator matters little in this argument. There is no big cannabis business in Mendocino. We are all small farmers facing the same issues as our neighboring cultivator and all would benefit from Phase 3. Phase 3 provides more cultivation strategies (biomass, full sun, green house, fresh frozen) with the likelihood of better economics. Incrementally higher production leveraging off existing farm infrastructure improvements – even small ones already made by license holders to obtain a license – means greater yields at a low marginal cost and the possibility of profits that are missing under the current regulatory scheme. It all feeds back into the economy and benefits all residents of Mendocino County. Cultivation begets processing/manufacturing begets distribution and so goes the cannabis ecosystem. Processing/manufacturing license holders who wholesale cannabis flower or manufactured products need more cannabis production in Mendocino to compete with the demands from buyers throughout the State of California who will turn to neighboring counties. Small production lots from 10,000 square feet canopy farms in Mendocino is inefficient to gather, process, and wholesale. Cultivators are reliant on processors to add value and get their product into dispensaries. And why bother with an Appellation project or biodynamic designations designed to lift up small farms if the output is too small to make a difference?
Environmental devastation is the Complex Fire of 2020 that decimated the grape and cannabis harvest. There are over 18,000 acres of vineyards in Mendocino County and crop losses over $500 million in 2020. Fortunately for vineyard operators crop insurance is readily available and economically feasible whereas cannabis has no such safety net. Alleged widespread environmental damage by “small grows” or any other legal cannabis operation is not supported by any facts and predictions of doom and destruction of the environment and way of life in Mendocino is irresponsible. Regular agriculture dominates the County and nothing proposed would change that. In fact one could argue regular agriculture of vineyard production and cattle and calf populations in Mendocino contribute more to the environmental crisis than 147 acres of cannabis cultivation. License holders have demonstrated their commitment to responsible and environmentally sound cultivation practices and conformed to the strict requirements of CDFW and the Water Board. Many of the UR and RL license holders permitted premises will not qualify for expanded cultivation because water restrictions and infrastructure investments (roads, wells) will make it economically unfeasible.
The biggest failure of legal cannabis for Mendocino residents has been the inability of the County to control illegal cultivation that takes place in rural unincorporated Mendocino County. District 3 has 70 percent of CDFA licenses and of the 147 acres of licensed cannabis, 119 acres are in AG, UR, and RL zoned land predominately in District 3.
Law enforcement and code enforcement are separate cannabis issues and responsibilities. The Sheriff’s Department has been chronically underfunded. Rural unincorporated areas in District 3 are difficult to surveil and patrol for illegal cannabis activities. The County needs to make a major investment in law enforcement which it has been unwilling to do. Code enforcement and permitting is an administrative challenge that can be met by strong leadership with the will to build consensus and move forward with some creativity. The status quo will not work in Mendocino County and Supervisor Hachek admitted as much with the mea culpa that “permits were wrongly granted”. So why would Mendocino County want to continue to impoverish its residents and ignore the facts? Proposition 64 is the voice of the people. It can’t be changed by the legislature (without a super majority). Reform is within the reach of the Board of Supervisors so please take action and improve the lives of your constituents.