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OPINION: PD’s Recent Cannabis Poll

OPINION: PD’s Recent Cannabis Poll

By Grace Guthrie

The Press Democrat published an article on June 3 of their cannabis poll results from 500 county voters; three questions asked about cannabis safety, grow location, and crime.

I’d like to provide two statistics not explicitly stated in the article and explain why I think they are important to your readers. First, 77% of the respondents for safety reasons want cannabis cultivation sites away from their neighborhood.  Second, 71% of the respondents for general location reasons also indicated they don’t want cannabis cultivation sites in their neighborhood (e.g., do so in agricultural zones, warehouses).

Those are resounding numbers which suggest that Sonoma County residents don’t want cannabis operations in their neighborhood. But let’s talk about the current allowable setbacks and the poll answer option “Outside, but only in agricultural areas”, of which 36% respondents chose. I agree in general, but I want to explain the current ordinance’s impact on most rural and agricultural neighborhoods.

It’s legal today to grow cannabis on a 2-acre Diverse Agriculture-zoned parcel surrounded by homes (or on a 5,10, 20+ acre “agriculture” parcel), permitting the outdoor plants are 300 feet from a neighboring house. But your veggie garden could be just 100 feet away from those outdoor plants, for example; and your kitchen could be just 10 feet from their indoor cultivation structures, parking lots, and employee activities—per the current ordinance adopted in 2016.

I’m curious to know how many of those voters polled live near a cannabis cultivation business, or know if one could legally pop-up next to them. The pollster omitted odor and noise questions, so I wonder if the respondents know that cannabis cultivation odor can travel way beyond 1,000 feet. Many residents are unaware that a property owner doesn’t have to live onsite while they lease the whole parcel to a cannabis management business; numerous employees, vehicles, exhaust fans, and security lights are active all day and night. Imagine that noise 10 feet from your kitchen. It’s a business with normal business noises.

The poll asked about feeling safe while living within a mile of a cannabis operation, and I have within a mile of my house four cannabis cultivation companies requesting permits for 53,432 aggregate sq ft of cultivation. The median parcel size of those cannabis sites is 7.4 acres and the median parcel size of their bordering neighbors is just 2.7 acres. Tiny “agricultural” residences surround these cannabis operations.

I wonder how the pollster and voters personally defined “Outside, but only in agricultural areas”. I cannot open my windows because the cannabis plant odor is too overpowering, regardless of indoor or outdoor growing. Forget about sitting in my backyard, or BBQ’ing with family. The pungent year-round odor creates a pervasive nuisance in my neighborhood.

This is a reason many of our neighbors urge the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to change the setback requirements for indoor and outdoor cannabis operations to at least 1,000 feet to a property line, or even to 2,000 feet to avoid subjective neighborhood arguments and code enforcement discrepancies.

The Board of Supervisors is presently discussing in open forums cannabis ordinance changes which can actualize this summer, and sustain our neighborhoods as a place to enjoy, in addition to the poll’s focus on feeling safe.

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