4f) Discussion and Possible Action Including Direction to Staff to Prepare Environmental Document and Ordinance to Remove or Streamline the Requirement for Issuance of Local Permit for Cannabis Cultivation While Retaining All Substantive Legal Restrictions and Environmental Protection Measures for State Licensed Operators
(Sponsors: Supervisor Williams and Supervisor McGourty)
Dear Board Members,
My name is E.D. Lerman, and my law firm represents many clients pursuing cannabis cultivation permits in Mendocino County.
I wish to make the Board aware of my clients’ frustration and displeasure with the operation of the Mendocino County Cannabis Department.
Some examples that the Board is no doubt already aware of include the fact that the files of Phase 1 Applicants that had already been designated as “In Good Standing,” were in such disarray in the Department that those applicants were directed to re-apply through the “In Good Standing Portal.” These were applicants whose files had been found by the Department to be essentially complete the first time they were reviewed.
Then there is the format for applying under Phase 3. First we were told to file all documents combined as one huge PDF file. After applying, however, we were asked to then submit each file separately to a Share Point folder. The level of disarray and inefficiency is almost comical. Except that, for my clients, it is not at all amusing. It is real money, and time, and effort, and worry, and good will that is spent by these people who are trying to enter the regulated marketplace. They are not being treated fairly or with respect.
We also want to share some examples of specific experiences our clients have had with the Department, which may or may not be common to other applicants. For instance, our clients who filed applications under Phase 3 when it opened in April last year, were told to “wait for the Department to contact you about paying the application fee.” However, after four (4) months in which our staff continuously followed up by email and phone regarding when and how they should pay, these clients were told their applications had nott ever been properly received because the application fees hadn’t been paid. There was never any communication from the Department about how to pay the application fees.
Even now, when the Department has said it is focusing all of its attention on verifying applicants’ tax status and DCC Provisional Licensure, our clients continue to get de-prioritization notices due to unpaid taxes and lack of DCC licenses – despite having paid all their taxes and having possession of valid DCC Provisional Licenses. My staff have had to reach out to the Mendocino Tax Collector’s Offices on behalf of at least two different clients to ask for written evidence that their taxes had been paid, so that we could satisfy the Cannabis Department. Yet Isn’t this precisely the task the Cannabis Department has said they are undertaking almost exclusively right now?
Finally, I want to recall a telling quote from the current Director of the Cannabis Department.
Speaking of the challenges of reviewing the “In Good Standing” applicants during the 9/21/22 Mendocino Cannabis Department Public Meeting, at 27 minutes and zero seconds into the archived recording, Director Nevedal states that “the materials that were submitted in 2020 by Applicants in response to Corrections Letters were not reviewed by Program or Planning Staff, and that was based on directive from leadership at the time.”
Director Nevedal goes on to say that she believes that the lack of consistent filing and organizational protocol for those materials is perhaps even more troubling than the directive to not review the materials. Yet I believe that this directive indicates that the Department’s mismanagement is historical in nature and not specific to the current leadership. Indeed the very genesis of 10A.17 and its imprecise and ineffectual language points back to a leadership that was at best unenthusiastic and perfunctory in ushering Mendocino County into the regulated adult use cannabis marketplace.
The process needs deadlines as it relates to the county’s responsibilities in reviewing and issuing permits. At present there is no mechanism in the actual ordinance that puts a clear and adopted deadline as to how long the county spends processing applications. This needs to change. This needed industry is leaving Mendocino County behind. We need to make up for the loss of income and the tragic failure of this current system and adopt a system that gets annual licenses in the hands of the farmers immediately and without any further delay. To say the current process is a failure is an understatement. This has been tragic for many families, and has caused members of our community to leave, rather than embracing the legacy that Mendocino County has in the cannabis industry and using it to thrive. Our office has been trying for years to work with the county to expedite and clarify the permitting process, but have found the system practically impossible to navigate.
I am concerned over the lack of accountability and believe it to be in violation of state law. Furthermore, the county continues to collect taxes from unpermitted applicants who are told if they don’t pay their taxes they will be deprioritized. At this point, without being given the green light to an annual permit, an average grow will have had to pay upwards of $145,000 just to remain in the program. Any new permit process that the County is involved with needs to come with strict deadlines within the ordinance, so it allows for a streamlined administrative process. There is no current path towards state licensing for provisional licenses for phase three.
Edie Lerman Esq
Founder Emerald Law Group
I fully support MCA’s memo, Hannah Nelson’s memo, and I echo every comment here also in support of streamlining the county permit process.
In 2016 I began the permit process with the zip tie program.
I applied with the Ag department for my cultivation permit in 2017. It was then moved to PBS, where it stalled and was eventually moved to what is now MCD in 2021. Every time my application was moved to a new department, I had to start over. The rules would change. The goalposts would move. Endless mistakes happened within the county offices and various departments. (Not to mention, there was a major pandemic. For that alone all deadlines should be more flexible as our entire state was on lockdown. (However, the DCC managed to do their job and make a site review on my property, but Mendocino county did not)).
I got my state provisional license in 2018.
I moved my garden 3 times, finally finding an environmentally superior location. I had to move it 3 times because THE COUNTY CHANGED THE OFFSET DISTANCE FROM PROPERTY LINES REQUIREMENTS!
My LSA was finalized in 2021.
My appendix G was submitted in 2021 but rejected because my permit had NOT been issued.
The work required for my LSAA is now nearly complete.
ALL of my structures are fully permitted.
I have had 6 state officials from the DCC, SWRCB, and CDFW visit and review my property and found it in complete compliance.
I have obtained 401’s from the Corp of Army engineers for my projects that are near complete.
I have obtained cultivation water rights for my pond.
All my documents and paperwork are absolutely perfect, thorough and completed.
In June 2022 I made it through the portal and my application was deemed complete by MCD. That was 9 MONTHS AGO!
I have spent well over a million dollars and now I’m going into year 7 of trying to get MCD to issue my permit so I can move forward with my annual license and CEQA.
I have spent all my money, time, energy and effort to jump through every single swinging flaming hoop put in my path by MCD. My partner and I have not had any employees since 2021 due to the cannabis market crash. We have done the equivalent of the work of 5 men each for 2 years straight without a break while raising 3 teenagers and carrying the stress load of potential financial devastation and absolute permit uncertainty.
MCD’S inability to function has cost me my mental health and sent my stress level to dangerous and harmful levels. I now have a doctor and a therapist and I require medication for sleep, depression, and acute chronic anxiety… All wholly due to what I’ve endured with MCD.
I am afraid, my partner is afraid, my children are afraid, my friends and family are afraid that ALL OF MY EXCELLENT EFFORTS ARE IN VAIN because the county still HAS NOT ISSUED MY PERMIT and without that permit, I cannot get my annual license, (or sell my farm for what it’s worth) and with looming deadlines, I therefore stand to lose, my home, my farm, my business, my livelihood, and subsequently, my physical and mental health.
I HAVE DONE EVERY SINGLE THING ASKED OF ME TO PERFECTION!
I beg of you please STREAMLINE THE PERMIT PROCESS FOR CULTIVATORS IN MENDOCINO COUNTY!
In dealing with MCD, I have never in my life dealt with a department so antiquated and dysfunctional. I am seriously considering speaking with an attorney and preparing my case for a lawsuit if my permit is not issued this year.
The process must be streamlined in accordance with the state.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you to supervisor Haschack for always supporting our efforts. Sir, I applaud you.
My wife and I strongly support item 4f.
This painful and dysfunctional application process has been going on too long.
The State and County must seek solutions outside of the box and find ways to cooperate to avoid the train wreck that is just around the corner.
Mendocino County has a unique story to market and tell to support economic development. Canna tourism will be more integrated in the future County business plan. Let's find creative solutions, move things forward and seek help and cooperation with the State of California.
Canna tourism and marketing could support the future economy, but not if the entire program crashes.
As a former chairman of the the County promotional and tourism agency MCPA, and one of the founders of the County Lodging BID. I recall well, the calls from winegrowers many years ago, "why do our wines end up in Napa bottles? Poor planning and support.
We need to support the creative process and historic legacy here, get out of the way and find solutions to let the County create and grow.
I fully support Hannah and MCA's streamlining permitting for Mendocino Cannabis Cultivators. Specifically, I've been waiting 16 months for a follow-up response on my Appendix G's. The state would be much better to work with directly for all parties. I don't have an annual license because the county hasn't upheld their end of this agreement, I've done everything asked of me. My family has so much on the line and its more than frustrating the uncertain and dubious path to having an annual license, especially if the county is the go between. Please streamline this for both our sake.
Agenda Item 4F
I support the MCA Memo and I also support Hannah Nelson's memo
I support the streamlining of the Local permitting system.
Mendocino county has known since 2017 it needs to issue cultivation permits, the CEQA paperwork can only be turned in after the Mendocino county annual permit is granted. Mendocino county has stalled on issuing local permits and also stalled on annual permit renewals. This is not a state problem it is a local problem. Blaming lack of Local permits on the state has not achieved anything except sending the county further into a financial hole.
Mendocino county took over 18 million dollars from the state of California to fix this situation, and it is the supervisors responsibility to make it work. Mendocino county took money from cultivators for permit applications and annual permits renewals, it is the counties legal obligation to follow thru on this program not abandon it.
This situation is costing the county millions, the cultivators millions, and the state millions.
Mendocino County needs to streamline the local ministerial permitting system to save everyone money.
Dear Supervisors, We are in support of simplifying the process for applicants & staff... Thank you. Laura & Marty Clein, Martyjuana™
I would like to express my support in concept for this agenda item and the recommendations proposed by MCA and Hannah Nelson. Additionally, I believe that letter submitted by DCC Director Nicole Elliot submitted and attached to this agenda item last night indicates that this direction is a viable alternative to the the status quo.
Specifically regarding the request by DCC to immediately stop the use of LJAGP funds, I do believe this is the appropriate thing to do. The current plan by MCD for the use the funds has not yet established a track record of successfully getting people compliant with CEQA in a timely manner, and there are many elements of the plan which may predictably lead to failure.
I've raised concerns previously about the late timing of the grant awards and that there is no posted criteria for prioritization of grant awards if more eligible uses are applied for than there is money available.
Pausing the use of these funds seems prudent while taking DCC up on their offer to work with the County to figure out ways of streamlining the process, particularly as it relates to the preparation, review and certification of Appendix G CEQA documentation.
As someone actively working with folks to prepare grant applications, this is a hard position for me to take. However, I trust that DCC will ultimately respect the sensitivities and work with the County and stakeholders to ensure the remaining funds are used most judiciously to "get people to yes."
I support MCA’s memo and Hannah Nelson’s letter regarding engaging in dialogue with the state to discuss all possible options to streamline our county program.
Dear board I Support, MCA input and any decision that benefits the people who’ve been working so hard to stay in compliance, and have jumped through every hoop, and there has been many unnecessary, duplicative steps, and not the fault of the cultivator or licensee . My questions about this agenda item are the following in the comment below the cannabis control board Director for California. Wrote do not distribute the local jurisdiction grants to prevent the CDC from trying to recoup the money So If you pass this item what will happen to people plans with that funding?I believe the state has our best interest in mind that’s why I am supporting this, but I really want that question to be thought through clearly! A lot of people have made plans to use that money to get into compliance with CEQA! Also, the CDC points out they are trying to pinpoint who to enforce upon, and that gets down to why I desire to be permitted to stay out of trouble and play by the rules. Does this align with the counties desire to keep separating the fuzzy line Between permitted and non-permitted but the real question is how do we incentivize and bring in all of the people we lost now heading into the crosshairs of enforcement, due to burdensome non-streamlined permitting process how do we make up for that by enforcing on people who wanted to be in the process, but were forced out from the complicated process Does this address that Just remember their were 1500 applications at one point and the complicated process weeded them out how many of those would’ve stayed in if we had a streamline process please don’t forget about ways that we can request our fellow community residence to re-join in and reapply where they left off having to start from the beginning and pay all the fees again seems ludicrous when we were set up to fail. Can you add an incentive to bring more farms to the easy process by directing staff to re-populate the permitees previous application, information information and waive their application fees, like you’re paying someone to have a kid and give those folks a hand up instead of a push off a cliff. Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely, Joseph Seidell
I fully support this agenda item and encourage the Board to implement the suggestions proffered in the letter submitted by the MCA. It is high time that our County, the BOS, and the MCD listen to the stakeholders' input, experiences, and suggestions. For too long the stakeholders who have been engaged with the county to become legal, compliant operators have been ignored and treated with the stigma of being law breakers and rule benders who are trying to get one over on the county. This perception needs to change as the people who have been involved with the county for years now simply want to have legal, successful, and viable businesses. Anything that the County can do to assist the local cannabis industry and reduce the number of multiple hurdles we have faced is highly encouraged in order to save our county from a mass extinction event one of the main industries that our county has relied on for years.
I support an effort to streamline. First see whom has completed their CEQA Docs. Especially the ones on that used the list of consultants the department suggested in the past. $$$
Then use our grant monies to hire consultants for the cultivators that have not yet, prepared these CEQA docs. Very little additional review would be needed at that point. Let's get the burden back on the State. Find out how many of us have had these docs prepared, one does not fight bureaucracy with more bureaucracy.
Dear Honorable Supervisors,
I support MCA’s memo and Hannah Nelson’s letter regarding engaging in dialogue with the state to discuss all possible options to streamline our county program. As an applicant for six years I believe it is time to streamline applicants to be promptly licensed so that myself and many others can stay in business and compliance with the state .
I am Michael Adams. I hold a Mendocino Permit and a California provisional license to cultivate outdoors. I am a member of MCA and support the memo they submitted regarding this item. In addition, I want to state that as Supervisors it is your responsibility to the people of this county to help our Cannabis businesses survive and thrive.
I can imagine a time where we cultivators and other business owners feel the support of our county, rather than the resistance from it. Grant money is coming now from the state to help. Let's put that money to good use, streamline this process, approve those permits that we can approve, and build a strong collaboration so that our counties cannabis businesses can succeed. Personally, my Appendix G is submitted and should be a fairly simply review. I look forward to getting the CEQA clearance which is my last step i getting an annual permit. If MCD is still looking for help I have applied with them two times already. I resent my resume to MCD last night. As a cultivator I am unsure what else to do. I have been trying to get my license since 2017.
Thank you for your time.
Michael Adams, Nurturing Seed Farm, Willits.
As one of the applicants that has a provisional state cultivation license and has had my paperwork into the county for 6 years with no one processing it, I think engaging the state to participate in processing the CEQA component as well as any hybrid for processing legacy cultivators is the most viable option right now. I completely understand the burdens that rural municipalities have been handed to bring provisional licenses holders to an annual status. The tremendous pressure on the limited resources of a county such as ours, sets up a scenario for failure. It is also troubling that the only annual cultivation licenses (six to date) issued in our county, were in 2019. Not a single annual outdoor cultivation license has been issued in the past three years. With a looming benchmark deadline in less than 5 months, it is time to take a clear look at the results to date of MCD and seek the assistance that the DCC seems willing to offer. This move will also contain further economic and emotional hardship on the lives of our small farmers, their families and the overall economy that benefits from their efforts.
The Bohemian Chemist
The Madrones & The Brambles
Sugar Hill Farm
Dear Honorable Supervisors- I support the memo from MCA on exploring as many way as possible through the MCD permitting process. I fully support exploring options to streamlining the permitting process, and fear it may be too late for some folks. I am as tired of this as the rest of us are! Asking the state to come in and help might be the only way to get any accountability and action from the MCD department. As a multiple permit holder here in Mendo, I would like to stay in business, please help us all stay in business! Thank you
Please review the attached memo from MCA in which we support the County engaging in dialogue with the State to evaluate all possible options in streamlining our local program, and provide items for consideration while those dialogues are underway. We fully support Hannah Nelson's memo as well, and urge the prompt scheduling of a robust full day Workshop with the Full Board and stakeholders, without 3 minute comment limits, to gather suggestions from those on the ground for improving conditions locally.
Thank you for your consideration.
Mendocino Cannabis Alliance
I am writing to support the MCA memo and letter from Hannah Nelson regarding this item. Meaningful reform to our regulations will make a real difference for many small businesses in Mendocino county.
On behalf of the Department of Cannabis Control, it is my pleasure to submit the attached letter expressing our support in concept for Agenda Item 4f to streamline Mendocino’s cannabis permitting program, which will be heard by your Board tomorrow morning.
Please contact me if you have any questions.
Deputy Director of Government Affiars
Please see attached comment letter.
I am the owner and operator of That Good Good Farm above the Anderson valley. I have submited a complete application on two separate occasions to the county of Mendocino. For the past 16 months since the latest was deemed complete, I've heard nothing regarding my permit. I’ve done everything asked of me and after more than 4 years of having to jump through ever-changing hoops, I still have no licensing security because Mendocino County is not able to achieve state benchmarks on time.The application period for legacy cultivators on my type of zoning closed years ago. With the current ordinance, If I fall out of licensing, I won’t be able to legally run my farm again.
Please remove or streamline the county cannabis program so that legacy cultivators like me can continue to opperate in compliance with state guidelines for legal business.
This is urgent. Please consider swift and decisive action.