Meeting Time: February 27, 2023 at 9:00am PST

Agenda Item

2b) Discussion and Possible Action Including Providing a Recommendation to the Board of Supervisors to Approve the Cannabis Department's Request to File a Local Jurisdiction Assistance Grants Program (LJAGP) Budget Amendment Reducing the Amount of Direct Grant Funds Available to Approximately $3.6 Million and Redirecting the Balance of Approximately $6.8 Million to Fund Expenses Associated with Timely Application Review that were Not Known to the Department when Filing the Original Application (Sponsor: Cannabis)

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    Erin Neuroth about 1 month ago

    I support the MCA Memo.

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    Jim Roberts about 1 month ago

    Honorable Supervisors,

    Regarding item 2b: I am deeply concerned with this suggestion that the department has miscalculated it’s budget needs and is requesting to further claw into funds that have been provided by the state that are intended to go directly to provisional licenses holders who are being failed by the system to move towards annual licenses. We were counting on some of those funds ourselves, as well as hundreds of other small farms for financial support in a very costly process of becoming fully compliant. To suggest that the direct grant funds to county provisional license holders of $17+ million will only have $3.6 million left for this purpose is unconscionable. After doing the calculations using the very minimum amount of $15,000 per provisional licensed farm for direct grants x 600+ farms for CEQA compliance assistance, the balance needed at the very least is $9 million for direct grants. The MCD director is indicating that only 276 +/- applicants are in good standing, but that calculation is being made by the every changing requirements of the department and not viewed in that way by the state when these funds were awarded.

    We have personally had our paperwork into the county for 6 years and we still haven’t been assigned to a planner or had our permit processed. MCD continues to access additional funds, but has not been processing or renewing permits, let alone annual licenses. The sheer data points to a systemic problem and failure. As part of the 32 member EEMTF task force under CalOSBA (part of GoBiz), I am in dialog with the Director’s office on the problems of direct grant funds to rural municipalities and the further burden it creates for these under resourced jurisdictions. I am in a unique position of being one of those grant applicants myself and having an involvement with the Advocate for the state’s 4.2 million small businesses. Local jurisdictions are not in the position to administer direct grants of this size while maintaining their current workflow.

    Being intimately involved with the process, I strongly suggest that the local government body who is the oversight of MCD, reject this budget item, while taking a close look at the ultimate results of the department and its performance, as well as the overall culture and approach. The resulting data is alarming. In addition, the punitive atmosphere of MCD and County Council towards license holders and the additional barriers it is creating at every juncture, would be greatly benefit by being replaced with a “Can Do” attitude with their state licensed provisional “clients”.

    With a looming CEQA benchmark deadline in 5 months we are in jeopardy of losing 99% of our legal county cannabis cultivation. The Mendocino crop report addendum of 2020, showed an economic activity of legal cannabis of $131 million. That compared to $82 million generated by wine grapes is an impressive economic generator and discretionary revenue builder for county government and our communities. Our thriving small business alone, collects and pays over $30,000 quarterly to the county in cannabis and transit occupancy taxes. We can’t afford to squander this emerging craft industry, by taking away the state grant monies from provisional license holders that desperately need them on their path for annual licensing and continued revenue generation.

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    Michael Katz about 1 month ago

    Honorable Supervisors,

    Please see MCA's attached memo on this item.

    We appreciate your consideration.

    Sincerely,

    Mendocino Cannabis Alliance
    e: info@mendocannabis.com

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    Heidi Wordhouse about 1 month ago

    Honorable Supervisors,
    In early 2022, the County of Mendocino's Cannabis Department was given 17 million dollars, roughly 10 million to grant directly to applicants for environmental needs, and another 7 million for MCD staffing expenses. With a top direct grant of $100,000 per applicant, that 10 million would have helped 100 applicants struggling with environmental requirements. That money will give applicants the funding they need to replace the county's MND with their own site specific 'Apx G' and replace roughly three culverts (which is about as far as the money will reach.) 100 applicants. If you acquiesce to the MCD's request, the remainder will help 36 applicants. Thirty six. What are we doing here, directly helping only 36 applicants with $17 million dollars?!

    Other jurisdictions are able to grant permits, disburse grant funding, lower hurdles to funding (instead of raising them), with smaller teams and less money than the MCD seems to require. Before throwing another 7 million dollars after the first 7.5 million, maybe the Board should look into how other jurisdictions are getting the job done with less funding and continue to directly support farmers over administrative overhead.

    The budget as suggested for this 7 million dollar money grab from direct grants, is un-readable. I request that at minimum, the subject be delayed until the public can be provided with a budget that is readable, where the budget item descriptions match up with the funds requested for those budget items. To be clear, if such a document was given the MCD by an applicant it would be resoundingly refused. How can we ask for less accountability from the MCD than we do private citizens?

    There is a several hundred thousand (as nearly as I can tell with the badly formatted budget provided) request for surveillance software. The LJAGP defines any budget item used for enforcement is *not eligible* for funding from the LJAGP. I request that the Board put in place a measure of accountability that ensures the surveillance software not be used for any enforcement issue, including denial of application, accusations of Veg Mod or other enforcement actions because of images obtained through that LJAGP-funded surveillance software. The LJAGP is funded to help applicants reach an annual license, not deny them through enforcement actions.

    Lastly, it's my understanding that an PEIR could be done for the entire county for less than 2 million dollars and within a year, eliminating the need for as much scrutiny and requested manpower within MCD. If the Board is considering the MCD request to remove 7 million dollars in direct grants from applicants, I request that 2 million of that be taken from surveillance software and other administrative overhead, and placed into the creation of a countywide PEIR.
    Thank you.