Examine planning, economic impacts of cannabis ordinance (Sonomawest)

Examine planning, economic impacts of cannabis ordinance (Sonomawest)

The new cannabis ordinance is not just planning policy; it’s economic policy. The Press Democrat has stated that 1 acre of cannabis yields $1,000,000 in revenues. If 15,000 acres go into cannabis cultivation, that is $15,000,000,000 in revenues for growers. 

Cannabis might be a plant but its extraordinarily high market value places it in a distinct category with much different social and economic implications, which is why it should not be in the same category as a traditional agriculture crop. How many farmers do you know gross $1,000,000 per acre per year? 

Good economic policy creates a healthy, diverse economic system, benefitting all community members not one industry. Large scale, outdoor grows potentially threaten Sonoma County’s tourist industries. Just as people don’t want to look at oil derricks along the Pacific Ocean, they don’t want to look at big plastic hoop houses in our countryside. Vacationers don’t want to see fenced-in hillsides with security guards and drones. 

The oil and gas industry made money by drilling off the California Coast; how much public benefit do we receive from those oil derricks? How much did we give up?

Government policy should not reduce the value of one person’s property so that someone else can make millions annually by having a commercial grow next door. Good economic policy preserves the value of the existing residents’ property (after all they have been paying taxes and contributing to the local economy) while also providing economic gateways for new industry. Good economic policy addresses the environmental impacts in terms of light pollution, water usage, plastic consumption, pesticides and fertilizers. Good economic policy builds in public benefit – such as a tax on gross cannabis revenues -when you have a high profit margin industry. Good economic policy opens pathways for new industry without diminishing the profits of existing businesses and reducing the wealth of current residents.

The Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors need to address the planning and the economic impacts of this ordinance. To do one without the other is not only incredibly short-sighted, it does not maximize the potential to create a policy that could work for growers, community members and the public sphere. If done correctly, the ordinance has great economic potential for all of Sonoma County.

 Kate Haug