Following a shorter than typical discussion on the matter, the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to enact a countywide ban on commercial marijuana.
Under public comment, Kevin Hendrick, chair of the Del Norte County Democratic Party, said that following a long discussion on the matter, Democrats opted to oppose adoption of the ban, since it doesn’t include an end date, making it permanent until repealed.
Although the ordinance has a statement of intention that it would be repealed by Dec. 12, that would not be enforceable, Hendrick said.
Hendrick suggested the board continue to work with the Cannabis Working Group Committee to review and adopt a comprehensive ordinance regulating the operation of cannabis businesses.
“We support the economic development and jobs and small businesses and taxation that will result from those enabling ordinances,” he said.
Hendrick reminded the board that 59.6 percent of county voters voted to legalize cannabis business.
“Although we recognize many of them certainly expected that there would be some reasonable regulation on these kind of activities in the county, it’s unlikely that people assumed what they meant was you should ban it,” he said. “If they voted for it, they didn’t mean you should ban it.”
Hendrick urged the board to follow through with the stated intention to repeal the ban by Dec. 12.
“Please show us that you can be trusted to carry out the will of the voters,” he said, “and follow through on the promise that you made.”
Robert Derego, manager of Del Norte Patients Together, said he’s come at the issue with uncertainty since having his home searched by authorities about eight years ago.
“There’s nothing like knowing that you could just lose your freedom at any moment, because someone doesn’t agree with the way you live,” he said.
He said his experiences have diminished his sense of trust. He called it “scary” that the ban is permanent, but with the stated intention to repeal it later.
“Still, I don’t think this is really the right decision,” he said.
Resident Victoria Dickie asked if anyone in county government had contacted federal authorities regarding cannabis legalization and the federal position on the legality of marijuana use and commercialization.
“We have not asked the federal government anything,” County Attorney Joel Campbell-Blair said, “but we know the laws. There’s no mechanism for the federal government to give us some kind of protection for our cannabis growers.”
Campbell-Blair said since it is federally illegal, he did not see a benefit in reaching out to federal authorities on the issue.
Supervisor Roger Gitlin said he has contacted the office of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and was given the clear message, “It is against the law.” Gitlin said to his knowledge the board of supervisors has never reached out to the federal government on the issue.
Regarding Hendrick’s comments, Gitlin said the issue was nonpartisan, as it affects the entire community. Gitlin said he could not speak to whether the board would repeal the ban in December.
Supervisor Lori Cowan said she did not intend to be in the position to vote on a ban, as it was not the original intent of the board a year ago. She said she simply did not want to turn local control over to the state.
“Unfortunately, the only way to get control is with a permanent ban right now,” she said. “I’m going in with the intent of letting the working group do what they need to do. One of the ordinances is already at county counsel, and the next will be going soon. They are working and doing the best they can and I am going to trust that they will continue to do that.”
The board voted unanimously to pass the ordinance banning commercial cannabis activity. The ban makes the board’s Feb. 27 vote official.
It also follows a Jan. 23 vote that fell short of a needed four-person majority approval to extend a county ban on commercial marijuana activity and direction to staff to pursue drafting a full ban while allowing the county’s Cannabis Working Group to continue meeting to create local legislation.
On Wednesday, a notice to circulate a petition was filed with the Del Norte County Clerk/ Recorder’s Office by Linda Sutter and Naomi Chelgren. The petition asks for an initiative ordinance to be placed on the November ballot, allowing for the regulated sale and distribution of medical and non-medical Cannabis in the county.
The county’s Cannabis Working Group continues to meet monthly and report to supervisors. Working group meetings are broadcast live on the county’s page and videos are replayable on the county’s YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/user/CountyOfDelNorte
Reach Tony Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org