El Do­rado County le­gal­izes mar­i­juana cul­ti­va­tion, sales

The Sacramento Bee - - Local - BY ALEXAN­DRA YOON-HENDRICKS ay­oon-hendricks@sacbee.com

El Do­rado County vot­ers Tues­day ap­proved five bal­lot mea­sures le­gal­iz­ing the cul­ti­va­tion and sale of com­mer­cial mar­i­juana.

All five mea­sures passed by wide mar­gins, sig­nal­ing a shift in the con­ser­va­tive-lean­ing county, cannabis ad­vo­cates said. Propo­si­tion 64, the state bal­lot mea­sure that le­gal­ized recre­ational mar­i­juana in Cal­i­for­nia, lost by 123 votes in El Do­rado in 2016.

Mea­sures N, P, Q , R and S on Tues­day’s El Do­rado bal­lot ad­dressed com­mer­cial cul­ti­va­tion, sale and tax­a­tion of mar­i­juana. Mea­sure N al­lows the county to im­pose taxes on the sale, cul­ti­va­tion and test­ing of cannabis, while the other mea­sures fo­cus on the per­mit­ting of in­door and out­door cul­ti­va­tion and sale of both medic­i­nal and recre­ational mar­i­juana.

The new mea­sures al­low the county to is­sue per­mits for a max­i­mum of 150 cul­ti­va­tion sites in ru­ral and agri­cul­tural ar­eas, as well as up to seven per­mits each for recre­ational and med­i­cal dis­pen­saries. Miller said that among the six ex­ist­ing medic­i­nal dis­pen­saries in the county, at least three have in­di­cated they would at­tempt to se­cure an ad­di­tional recre­ational dis­pen­sary li­cense.

“We’ve al­ready had peo­ple ask­ing at the door, ‘Can I come in and get stuff to­day?’” said Whit­ney Marc­hand, man­ager of the medic­i­nal dis­pen­sary Pure Life Col­lec­tive in Di­a­mond Springs, re­fer­ring to recre­ational mar­i­juana prod­ucts.

“The pub­lic rec­og­nizes we have thou­sands of grow­ers out here and (it) is a sub­stan­tial part of the econ­omy,” said Rob Miller, head of the El Do­rado County Grow­ers Al­liance and chair­man of the cam­paign sup­port­ing the mea­sures. He es­ti­mates the county has at least 2,000 le­gal and il­le­gal cul­ti­va­tors grow­ing cannabis.

El Do­rado will be one of the first coun­ties in the Sacra­mento re­gion to al­low com­mer­cial cannabis ac­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing re­tail sales and cul­ti­va­tion. All com­mer­cial cannabis ac­tiv­ity is banned in Placer County and un­in­cor­po­rated parts of Sacra­mento County, while only medic­i­nal cannabis can be com­mer­cially grown in un­in­cor­po­rated parts of Yolo County, and no dis­pen­saries are per­mit­ted in that county.

El Do­rado County Sher­iff John D’Agos­tini op­posed the mea­sures, telling lo­cal me­dia they could lead to in­creased use of cannabis by kids, and that le­gal­iza­tion would not de­ter il­le­gal op­er­a­tions. D’Agos­tini and the sher­iff’s of­fice did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment from The Bee.

It will likely take un­til at least May be­fore the county will be able to is­sue li­censes or per­mits, said El Do­rado County spokes­woman Carla Hass.

“That’s best case sce­nario in the ab­sence of any sig­nif­i­cant hic­cups,” she said.

Un­der the bal­lot mea­sures, the El Do­rado County Board of Su­per­vi­sors has six months to es­tab­lish its cannabis pro­gram, de­fine reg­u­la­tions and ap­prove tax rates.

The bal­lot mea­sures spec­ify dis­pen­saries could be taxed be­tween 4 per­cent to 10 per­cent, and cul­ti­va­tors could be taxed up to $30 per square foot of grow­ing space, or up to 15 per­cent of to­tal gross re­ceipts.

Be­cause it’s a gen­eral tax, the rev­enue gen­erat-

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THE PUB­LIC REC­OG­NIZES WE HAVE THOU­SANDS OF GROW­ERS OUT HERE AND (IT) IS A SUB­STAN­TIAL PART OF THE ECON­OMY.

Rob Miller of El Do­rado County Grow­ers Al­liance

ed from sales and cul­ti­va­tion has no set al­lo­ca­tion, though lo­cal of­fi­cials have in­di­cated in­ter­est in fund­ing law en­force­ment ef­forts and sub­stance abuse pro­grams.

With ad­di­tional fees, the county could re­ceive any­where from $1.9 mil­lion to $52.8 mil­lion an­nu­ally, ac­cord­ing to the county’s voter guide, though a con­sult­ing com­pany hired by the county es­ti­mated rev­enue be­tween $3 and $4 mil­lion an­nu­ally. Miller said grow­ers and dis­pen­saries will push for lower taxes and fees to off­set the cost of com­pet­ing against il­le­gal op­er­a­tions.

“There’s no crys­tal ball that will en­able us to fig­ure out at this point how many peo­ple will start to en­gage in cannabis op­er­a­tions who haven’t be­fore, or prog­nos­ti­cate (grow­ers work­ing) above board ver­sus the black mar­ket,” Hass said.

Last De­cem­ber, the county banned all com­mer­cial cannabis ac­tiv­ity ex­clud­ing ex­ist­ing medic­i­nal dis­pen­saries as part of a crack­down on cannabis cul­ti­va­tors. Hass said the mora­to­rium was meant to give the county time to re­search and seek pub­lic in­put on cannabis poli­cies as state reg­u­la­tions con­tinue to evolve. Over the last two years, the county has con­ducted nearly 30 pub­lic meet­ings about mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion, she said.

Marc­hand said El Do­rado County has one of the largest group­ings of cul­ti­va­tors and grow­ers in the state out­side the Emer­ald Tri­an­gle, which is made up of Hum­boldt, Men­do­cino and Trin­ity coun­ties.

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