Native American group, Sierra Club, Farm Bureau challenge Yolo County cannabis ordinance

Native American group, Sierra Club, Farm Bureau challenge Yolo County cannabis ordinance

Capay Valley is Being Overrun

Flawed EIR, overconcentration cited
High school overwhelmed by odor
75% growers are outside investors

PUBLISHED: December 4, 2021 at 11:21 a.m. | UPDATED: December 4, 2021 at 11:22 a.m.

The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation is in the midst of scheduling the mandatory settlement conference that must take place in all California Environmental Quality Act cases in relation to their lawsuit to challenge Yolo County’s Cannabis Land Use Ordinance.

The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation partnered with the Yolo County Farm Bureau, Sierra Club and the citizen’s group Voices for Responsible Leadership in a lawsuit against Yolo County, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors and Yolo County Community Services.

On Sept. 14, following a lengthy deliberation process over the span of several years, supervisors unanimously approved and adopted the Cannabis Land Use Ordinance (CLUO) and certified the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the ordinance. One month later, on Oct. 14, the CLUO went into effect.

According to a press release from the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation that was distributed the day the CLUO went into effect, the CLUO violates the California Environmental Quality Act and conflicts with the Williamson Act. The lawsuit is seeking to block implementation until its challenges are corrected.

Both the lawsuit and the press release emphasized that the tribe does not object to the legal cultivation of cannabis, nor does it seek to block county residents from profiting from the cannabis industry but rather takes issue with the final ordinance as written.

“The cannabis industry has a place in Yolo County, just as cannabis has a place in the medicine cabinets of many people in California,” the Tribal Council of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation stated in the press release. “But sensible cannabis permitting can’t happen until the county is clear-eyed about the problems overconcentration creates, especially in sensitive areas around schools, near cultural heritage sites and in smaller communities like those in the Capay Valley.”

The current ordinance includes buffer zone requirements and a cap of 65 cannabis use permits, with five located within the Capay Valley and allows for 49 cultivation licenses.

The Capay Valley is currently home to a disproportionate amount of cannabis production operations, according to the press release. The lawsuit addresses concerns with overconcentration in smaller communities like the Capay Valley, citing odor, crime and environmental impacts as potential problems. The EIR failed to address the relocation of cannabis land uses to smaller, rural communities like Esparto and Madison, the lawsuit states.

According to the court documents, petitioners from the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and the Farm Bureau informed supervisors about the environmental, health and public safety concerns they had concerning the CLUO and the EIR. During workshops held by the Yolo County Planning Commission in late 2020, a commissioner asked if all of Yocha Dehe’s concerns had been addressed.

“The county’s contract planner responded, falsely, that all of Yocha Dehe’s concerns had been addressed,” the documents stated.

The lawsuit argues that the environmental work done by the county was insufficient and claims the final version of the CLUO was not subject to public review.

“Yolo County has filed an answer to this request for relief by the coalition, but the answer was deficient and so needs to be amended,” explained Ben Deci, the tribe’s public information officer, about the current state of the lawsuit. “I am unaware of where the county is on filing that amended answer.”

Yolo County Public Information Officer John Fout stated that the county “filed the amended answer on December 2, and we expect the lawsuit will be decided in mid-2022. We do not have any other comments.”

There is no definitive date yet for when the settlement conference will take place, but Deci said he anticipates it happening sometime in the upcoming week.


Capay Valley is Being Overrun by a Disproportionate Share of Yolo County Cannabis Farms

The Overwhelming Majority of the Owners of these Cannabis Farms are NOT Capay Valley Residents

by Alan Pryor

According to records provided by residents of Capay Valley opposed to the proliferation of cannabis farms in that rural and semi-rural area, there are 54 licensed pot farms in Yolo County with identified APN parcel numbers. Of these 54 farms, 27 (50%) are located in or near the unincorporated towns of Guinda, Rumsey,  Capay, and Esparto in the geographically short and narrow Capay Valley. The remaining 27 farms are located in other widely dispersed unincorporated areas of Yolo County. Based on land area alone, this is obviously a hugely disproportionate concentration of cannabis farms in this generally less wealthy area of the County.

It is further noteworthy that of the 27 cannabis farms in the Capay Valley, only 7 (26%) have a person or business owner with an actual identified mailing address in the valley itself – everyone else is from somewhere else.. (Note: County records are incomplete or inaccurate so some property/business owner information was not released or otherwise unobtainable. As a result, not all information is currently available for all cannabis farms licensees).

In direct conflict with these facts, the cannabis farming industry’s main lobbyist, Richard Miller of the State Director of the American Alliance for Cannabis and Yolo County Farmers for Safe and Responsible Cannabis Regulations, recently stated in a published letter,  “In fact, many long-term residents are trying to be a part of a new and exciting industry by developing better models and practices for the future rather than just ignoring cannabis like it doesn’t exist or worse, treating it like some kind of plague.

He further goes on to paint a very rosy picture of the benefits of local cannabis farms, “Legal Cannabis supports the Yolo County community. When cannabis is purchased from our legally licensed businesses, local jobs are being supported and tax revenue is being generated, which in turn, gets reinvested in our community. By producing cannabis locally, we create a larger, more beneficial impact for all. Contributions also extend to local nonprofit organizations, fire departments, and charitable entities on top of those taxes that benefit local projects. The cannabis industry, in general, has always been empathetic, rooted in medical collectives, offering compassionate use and access for those in need.”

But “Lots of good jobs, lots of taxes paying for police and fire departments and reinvested in our community, lots of money to be given to non-profits, minimal local impacts” sounds familiar because these are the standard promises carpetbaggers and developers make when they come into any new area looking for profitable business opportunities.

But the experiences of close neighbors of the cannabis farms tell quite a different story. According to a letter sent to the Yolo County Supervisors by long-time Capay Valley resident, Helen H. McCloskey of Rumsey Farms, “Most of us voted to legalize cannabis. Little did we know our County’s implementation would harm so many and benefit so few, creating a policy of social and economic injustice that creates great wealth for a few at the expense of the community. When anyone can grow cannabis, it’ll be farming. Growing cannabis isn’t “farming”; it’s a grant of special privilege, available only to those with access to wealth, and largely abused.

This disparity in how the supposed benefits of concentrated cannabis farming in Capay Valley seemingly will accrue to outside business interests instead of local residents and communities seems reminiscent of the long-time proven practice of locating hydrocarbon extraction, waste processing, and other “dirty” industries in poorer cities and neighborhoods. In California, these commercial blighted areas include southeast San Francisco, west Oakland, south-central Los Angeles, and along the Hwy 99 corridor in major San Joaquin Valley cities including Bakersfield, Fresno, Stockton, and Sacramento.

In Capay Valley the presence and problems with the new cannabis farms is similar in that the generally non-resident businesses are granted exclusive rights to locate their problematic industries in poorer areas of the County all the while painting a rosy picture of good jobs for local residents that will fill up local restaurants and stores and provide tax revenues to fill the coffers of county government.

But the truth is a far more detrimental impact to local residents adjacent or nearby to these cannabis farms. These include the stench of acres of ripening cannabis near harvest time or running diesel generators 24/7 for processing or storage facilities all of which have been reported to County authorities in dozens of letters from local residents also alleging numerous other objectionable activities. T

And these are problems associated with just the 27 small 1-acre maximum plot sizes on the farms. Local residents are right to worry about what will happen if the County opens the floodgates to many new and larger farms or allow greatly expanded use of existing farms. For instance, what if the County eventually allows a 10 acre or 20 acre cannabis plot at a single site compared to the current maximum of 1-acre. Or what will be the impact if the County eventually doubles or triples or more the number of cannabis farms in the County with even only modestly higher maximum plot size per farms?  Current residents know from experience with the small existing 1-acre plots that if will likely be far worse than even their current untenable situation

The are many other areas of unincorporated Yolo County that are not nearly as densely populated as the Capay Valley and where problems with cannabis cultivation can be more easily dispersed and efficiently and effectively monitored by law enforcement.  Our Supervisors should not allow any cannabis farming in close proximity to any comparatively densely populated areas in Yolo County. And they should certainly ban such cannabis cultivation when located in such a geographically constricted and confined area such as in Capay Valley with its narrow valley floor.

Yocha Dehe Joins The Sierra Club, Yolo County Farm Bureau, And Residents, To Demand Sensible Cannabis Land Use Policy

Tribe joins suit calling for changes to flawed Cannabis Land Use Ordinance

For Immediate ReleaseContact: Ben Deci (530) 510-3487

BROOKS, Calif.  – In an effort to hold Yolo County accountable for developing fair and sound cannabis land use policy, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation has partnered with the Sierra Club, Yolo County Farm Bureau, and local residents in a lawsuit to do precisely that.

The lawsuit does not seek to stop cannabis cultivation and related businesses in Yolo County, or to prevent County residents from profiting from the cannabis industry.  Rather, it would simply require the County to comply with California environmental law by evaluating the full and real impacts of cannabis cultivation, and mitigate those impacts, before adopting an ordinance regulating it.  Adhering to this process is what the California Environmental Quality Act requires, and indeed, these same requirements apply to every other regulated land use.

“The cannabis industry has a place in Yolo County, just as cannabis has a place in the medicine cabinets of many people in California,” noted the Tribal Council of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. “But sensible cannabis permitting can’t happen until the County is clear-eyed about the problems overconcentration creates, especially in sensitive areas around schools, near cultural heritage sites, and in smaller communities like those in the Capay Valley.”

The ‘green rush’ to the Capay Valley — which comprise rural communities west of Interstate 505 from Madison through Rumsey — created widespread blight and land uses incompatible with the organic farming practices and eco-tourism for which the area is known.  Additionally, the Capay Valley’s location in the northern-most part of the county makes cannabis farms there difficult to reach and more expensive to regulate for inspectors and sheriff deputies, including deputies subsidized by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.  With more than half of the grows concentrated in the Capay Valley, local residents have become unduly burdened.

The suit stems from flaws in the environmental review process that produced a Cannabis Land Use Ordinance the Yolo County Board of Supervisors adopted.  One  key flaw is the County’s refusal to compare the impacts of cannabis cultivation to Yolo County’s rural environment and agricultural landscape before the grows existed.  By proceeding in this fashion, the County’s environmental document necessarily missed significant cannabis industry impacts. 

While the County agreed it made sense to protect the upper Capay Valley from overconcentrated grows, its Ordinance allows cannabis grows to now concentrate in the lower Capay Valley, burdening small rural communities, schools, and businesses, particularly in  Madison and Esparto.  These communities are among the poorest and most diverse in the County, with Esparto and Madison having the highest percentage of Latino residents (55.3% and 76% respectively), and with Madison ranking as the most impoverished.  The County’s rulemaking is unclear even on the issue of the Capay Valley’s boundaries, which is defined one way in some legal documents, and another way in the proposed Ordinance.

Not only does cannabis cultivation pose adverse impacts for residential rural communities, its production is fundamentally incompatible with traditional agriculture in Yolo County, and the County needs to account for that reality through appropriate mitigation.

The full extent of the increased costs and harms created by the industry cannot be known because the County refused to consider impacts of cannabis cultivation authorized as of 2017, without any environmental review.  The lawsuit filed today seeks to correct that error.

Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation is an independent, self-governed nation that supports our people and the Capay Valley, CA community by strengthening our culture, stewarding our land and creating economic independence for future generations.