SOSN Press Release: Sonoma County Officials Fail to Fix Flawed Cannabis Ordinance
October 18, 2018. Sonoma County, California
“Sonoma County Officials Fail to Fix Flawed Cannabis Ordinance”
Who we are:
Save Our Sonoma Neighborhoods (SOSN) is a grassroots group of Sonoma County citizens advocating to improve Sonoma County’s Cannabis Land Use Ordinance that currently endangers Sonoma County residents, their homes, property values, environment and safety.
We call for a moratorium on all new cannabis permits until a new ordinance is drafted and approved, one which supports the interests of ALL Sonoma County residents.
The Problems with the Sonoma County Cannabis Ordinance:
The poorly written ordinance fails to protect the environment from self-monitored, unenforced, and unpermitted land alteration. The ordinance fails to protect rural neighborhoods by allowing commercial cannabis operations to reside within a few feet of neighboring homes. The County does not have enough resources to properly inspect or enforce the current ordinance.
SOSN has been heavily involved with the Board of Supervisors, Code enforcement, its Cannabis Program team, and its Planning Commission to create policy, raise awareness of real evidence of the negative impact to both neighborhoods and the environment and to shape meaningful policy considerations to improve the County’s cannabis ordinance. Despite this, our many suggestions have been ignored by the County, and County officials continue to promote ministerial permits which do not allow for any public comment.
County staff and supervisors have visited residential homes which sit 125 feet from a cannabis grow building and experienced first-hand the odor, noise and blight nuisance. However, the County continues to ignore these issues.
Sonoma County’s current cannabis ordinance states: “Medical cannabis uses shall not create a public nuisance or adversely affect the health or safety of the nearby residents or businesses by creating dust, light, glare, heat, noise, noxious gasses, odor, smoke, traffic, vibration, unsafe conditions or other impacts, or be hazardous due to the use or storage of materials, processes, products, runoff or wastes”. The County is willfully ignoring its own ordinance, acting in a negligent way regarding protecting residents’ safety, security and right to enjoy their private property.
Four fed-up families in Petaluma, who were negatively impacted by noise and odor from a neighboring cannabis business, had to file a lawsuit against their grower for County officials to finally take action and shutdown the cannabis site. It took taxpayers’ prolonged agony and their own bank account to motivate Sonoma County to listen to them.
Ironically, the county recently issued a press release proclaiming great progress to “right the cannabis ship” with massive cannabis operations shutdowns and assessing paltry fines, while cheering that it has two full-time employees to enforce all county-wide cannabis land use codes. Two?! Yet we still have cannabis cultivators in the middle of neighborhoods all over the county, none of whom have a county-issued use permit to operate. Neighborhoods adjacent to the high value cash crop continue to live in fear and also have serious concerns about the self monitoring water consumption and insufficient fire road access.
Commercial cannabis operations could impact you next. Cannabis businesses are creeping unabated into dense neighborhoods, close to the edge of county parks and other public places where you visit. This will become everyone’s problem if we don’t speak up now.
Sonoma County’s Board of Supervisors deliberated on October 16 and voted on a revised cannabis ordinance that provided several more favorable conditions for growers, including increasing use permits to 5 years, even prior to recognizing that such a business should not be
10 or 300 feet from a bedroom window (as is allowed today), allowing an additional 25% cultivation area for propagation, and allowing variances to park setback requirements for growers. This makes it much easier for commercial cannabis facilities to be located very close
to all our parks. The Board did vote to require new applications to be on parcels of at least 10 acres, but will grandfather in all permits and pipeline applications on smaller parcels.
This pro-grower proposal strengthens a cannabis business’ position inside neighborhoods and closer to schools and parks, before addressing neighborhood compatibility and public health and safety.
The County wants residents to prove and argue that living within a few feet of cannabis plants or an onslaught of 24×7 commercial business activity negatively impacts their home and life — for residents to “have a voice in the permit process.” Who will win that battle? The busy working
family who doesn’t know how to navigate government process or the beneficiaries and consultants to millions of dollars of corporate revenue and county tax revenue?
Sonoma County officials are NOT protecting its residents from cannabis related crime in neighborhoods, fire risks and environmental damage due to lack of code enforcement:
1) Commercial marijuana facilities do not belong in residential neighborhoods regardless of zoning: They belong in industrial zones.
2) Fire safety practices are not being followed by Sonoma County officials: Despite suffering one of the state’s deadliest and largest wildfires in October 2017, Sonoma County is completely ignoring road and fire safety issues by allowing commercial marijuana businesses to operate in remote areas accessed by narrow, winding one lane roads which places residents’ lives at risk. This violates common sense.
3) Sonoma County is ignoring environmental laws in its unyielding support of the cannabis industry: This County’s most flagrant disregard for environmental laws is its purposeful and deceptive use of a “Negative Declaration” for the Medicinal Cannabis in County Cannabis Ordinance enacted in 2016. County officials claim by bringing illegal growers “out of the shadows and into the regulated market”, the impact to the environment would be positive. In reality, the amount of illegal activity is not shrinking; it is as robust as ever. Many investors and operators have flocked to Sonoma County from out of state and the 49 counties in California where commercial outdoor marijuana growing is banned. Instead of shrinking the illegal sector while growing the legal one, the ordinance has simply added one on top of the other, and furthermore is flooding Sonoma County with an influx of outside growers. And now the County is expanding the scope of cultivation and manufacturing to include recreational marijuana in addition to medical marijuana; this should
trigger a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The entire program must be halted until a thorough EIR can be conducted.
SOSN demands the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission and staff fully address all of our neighborhood concerns above, and suspend all cannabis permitting until a new ordinance can be drafted and approved. The new ordinance must support the interests of ALL Sonoma County residents, not just the special interests of the Commercial Cannabis Industry.
Call to action:
1. Get engaged in our cause and learn more. Like us on Facebook and join sosneighborhoods.com This impacts all Sonoma County residents.
2. Donate to www.sosneighborhoods.com. We need to cover many costs including printing, mailers, website maintenance, legal action, lobbying.
3. Write to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voicing your concerns and objections to this failed policy.
For further information and to receive all supporting information for the details outlined above: