The Anza Valley Municipal Advisory Council hosted its second Cannabis Emergency Regulation Committee meeting at the Anza Pizza Factory Saturday, Feb. 10.
“The advisory council’s purpose is exactly that, to advise. It cannot advise properly and objectively if it is ill informed,” AVMAC member and CERC Chair Edison Gomez-Krouse said. “The committee seeks to study the situation with looming regulatory changes on behalf of the board of supervisors. We are an assistance tool for the supervisor.”
AVMAC board members Bob Giffin and Edison Gomez-Krouse were present, as well as the newly chosen committee members, stand-ins and local residents.
Gomez-Krause said that the meetings were open to the public, yet the committee held the floor, with members of the community having the opportunity to comment at the end of the assembly.
Gomez-Krause called the gathering to order, and reviewed Robert’s Rules of Order, a guide for conducting meetings and making decisions as a group. Respect is a key point.
He outlined the guidelines of the group and mandates that will be followed. These include the search for best and most plausible method of the regulation of the cannabis industry within the Anza-Aguanga communities. It will report its findings and recommendations to the AVMAC, who will forward that information to the county supervisors for their consideration.
“We have to find a solution,” he said. “That’s what we are going to try and do.”
Gomez-Krause announced the nine committee members that had applied for the group and been accepted. Anza Electric Cooperative General Manager Kevin Short, Daryl Hosler, Richard Ku, Phillip Canaday, Kendall Steinmetz, George Hanian and Kiran Samuels were included, with Vice Chair Bob Giffin and Gomez-Krause as chair. Stand-ins included Andrew Carey and Tim Lauridsen.
The first order of business was to appoint a secretary, and Kiran Samuels was nominated and approved for the position.
New business reviewed the committee’s strategic plan to seek regulation of the cannabis industry in the Anza-Aguanga area.
“We have several main talking points, which are zoning, property size, canopy size, environmental impact, energy consumption, crime and the regulatory body that will be proposed to be implemented for this issue,” Gomez-Krause said. “The objective of today’s meeting is to talk about all these subjects, take home some homework, those that are more knowledgeable on certain topics should focus on their area of expertise.
“Today’s meeting is basically just to throw out every idea you have on these subjects,” he said. “Because by next meeting, we will be solidifying some ideas and polishing them, so in two months or less, we can present the formal document to the AVMAC.”
Zoning was discussed, and Giffin responded by saying that he was not sure how the county was going to handle zoning for cannabis, whether agricultural or residential oriented and whether or not they will require setbacks from property lines. He also revealed that he is working with attorneys and state lawmakers to show them that the cannabis issue is indeed an emergency situation for the unincorporated communities of Anza and Aguanga.
Concerns for the preservation of residential neighborhoods, taking cues from current zoning and property sizes to limit the number of plants and the review of what unincorporated Riverside county allows at present were all discussed at length.
Gomez-Krouse suggested calling “illegal growers,” “noncompliant or non-sanctioned farmers” due to the fact that legality is such a gray area at this time. Short disagreed with this thinking, citing Riverside County Ordinance 925, which states that medical marijuana card holders may grow 12 plants per card and 2 cards and 24 plants per permitted parcel or recreational-use cannabis at 6 plants for persons over 21 and 6 plants per permitted parcel. He encouraged all the committee members to become familiar with the ordinance.
“Since the county ordinance is in effect, anything in violation of that is illegal,” he said.
“I think it needs to be clear that there’s always been marijuana grown up here, but when the county said, ‘We’re not going to enforce the laws,’ That’s what Opal (Hellweg) said at the last AVMAC meeting, and they had it in the paper. That’s when everything blossomed,” Daryl Hosler said. “Because now the growers know, ‘Well, I don’t have to worry about 24 plants, they’re not going to come up here and enforce any of it.’”
He said the county needs to stop telling the public they are not able or willing to enforce certain laws, because that leads to the situation the community now has.
“I’m not opposed to people growing,” he said. “But I’m certainly opposed to the county saying publicly what laws get to be enforced.”
“I think we’re going to have a black market regardless of what we do,” George Hanian said. “But I am hoping we can put something together that is not too prohibitive, so they will want to work within the rules.”
The goal is to create a regulatory body to handle these difficult issues, Gomez-Krause said. Ordinance 925 could be amended to take into consideration the creation of an Anza cannabis district.
Definitions of certain terms were outlined. Canopy size was defined as greenhouse, indoor or outdoor cultivated square footage area and was deemed by all to need more research as to what the cultivators were actually doing. Plant numbers, sizes and harvests per year are all part of this equation.
Richard Ku said that he thought huge grows need to be limited due to their impact on the water supply.
Greenhouse permitting and the strain on the electrical grid were also discussed. Short agreed to supply data on the effect that the existing grows were having on the grid and on the permitting of new electrical service to wells to present at the next meeting.
The committee will attempt to quantify the number of existing grows in the area to study their effect on the communities.
“The only way you’re going to get buy-in from residents is that you have an impact today, and your regulations are going to lower the impact on the community by bringing people into compliance up to a certain amount and encourage that compliance and then work the enforcement issue,” Samuels said.
Limiting cultivation sizes will also help alleviate the odor problem, according to Gomez-Krause.
Water usage will be carefully looked at by the committee, and as much study as possible will be done regarding this important matter. The quantification of water availability, possible metering and state Water Board permits will all be researched.
“How much water do cannabis plants use per square foot of canopy?” Gomez-Krause said.
It was suggested by Phil Canaday that approximately 6 gallons per plant per day was an average and a good starting point for continued research.
Giffin reminded the group about the ongoing water suit and the effect that additional water usage will have in this regard. His opinion was that the Water Board would make the larger farms quantify and meter their usage.
Waste is handled by the growers at this time by the transfer station. Gomez-Krause suggested mitigation of cannabis wastes such as spent soils, plant stalks, plastics and bags, as is done with other businesses. The transfer station is designed for residential use only, so this is an issue that warrants more investigation. Pesticide and fertilizer-nutrient waste is also of concern and will be studied in detail by the committee.
Economic liability encompassed the profitability of growing cannabis and providing a suitable living for the farmer. Kendall Steinmetz agreed to try to show some numbers for the price of doing cannabis business for the next meeting.
Short commented that large corporations may come in and buy out smaller enterprises, as was done to tobacco farmers years ago.
An effort to create a boutique industry and present Anza’s cannabis products as special and rare would help keep prices high for the local farmers. Branding could be a way to go, according to Hanian.
“This regulatory body that’s created, it’s our biggest hurdle as a committee is this regulatory body. We need to figure out the most viable pathways to regulate this industry in the unincorporated area,” Gomez-Krause said.
Fee and tax structures and the necessity of fees and taxes being collected to be placed back into this community were of special importance to the committee members. Giffin said he was researching the ways that counties in Northern California are handling these questions. Steinmetz warned the committee that the fees and taxes need to be reasonable or the growers will not participate.
As the meeting came to a close, it was agreed that Short would provide an energy report to the next meeting. Steinmetz and Andrew Carey will provide information on how the cannabis industry works in Anza. Giffin will bring research regarding a governing body, existing models and ways to get money to stay in Anza. Canaday will bring water study data from the Anza Mutual Water Company.
Gomez-Krause asked that the findings be submitted several days before the next meeting to ensure enough time for study.
The gathering opened for public comment.
Anika Knoppel offered to help the committee with her knowledge of the nursery businesses and farmer’s markets. She said that hoop house greenhouses do not require county permits.
Andrew Carey spoke of Ordinance 925 and the growers’ disregard for it. New regulations need to be workable, he stressed. He also mentioned the vast differences between growing methods, plants sizes and water-nutrient requirements and that these things are difficult to average out.
Jerry Day spoke passionately, yet respectfully about property and privacy rights, defense and government regulations that are overreaching and unconstitutional in his view. He said he was against additional regulations and that the committee needed to be careful not to impose any that are too harsh. He said he moved to Anza to escape regulations and resented the suggestion of another “governing body.”
Long time Anza resident Tim Lauridsen said he thought the committee was shortsighted and that cannabis is not going to be the main crop for very much longer.
The committee discussed times and additional locations for future meetings. After much deliberation, it was decided that the next gathering would take place 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22, at the Anza Electric Cooperative’s conference room.
“They have cookies there!” Hosler said.
The meeting was adjourned.
For more information regarding the AVMAC Cannabis Emergency Regulation Committee, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listen to the meeting as recorded by Anza’s KOYT-FM 97.1 radio or stream online at www.koyt971.org.
To contact Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington’s office, call (951) 955-1030 or visit http://supervisorchuckwashington.com/.
For more information about the AVMAC, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AnzaValleyMAC/.
For updates on cannabis ordinances and laws in Riverside county, residents can visit http://planning.rctlma.org/Home/Cannabis.aspx.
For information on what is currently allowed in the unincorporated areas of Riverside County, including a public input page to leave comments on this issue, visit http://planning.rctlma.org/Home/Cannabis/PublicInput.aspx.
To learn more about state cultivation regulations and fees, visit http://calcannabis.cdfa.ca.gov.
For information on all areas of cannabis regulation and tax structure in California, visit https://cannabis.ca.gov.