Violating the rules
EDITOR: Marisa Endicott’s column on the bureaucratic process crippling Sonoma County’s cannabis industry is misleading (“County growers rack up fees, fines,” Nov. 20). First, growers under the Penalty Relief Program have been allowed to continue while their application is processed. The column points to the recent crop report showing cannabis revenue at $2.4 million an acre per year. Compare this to the wine industry, which is able to thrive on $9,000 per acre. Growers complain about $100,000 in fees and penalties pushing them to the edge. If a grower can’t succeed with such revenue, maybe their business practices need review.
The permitting process is long and difficult. But of the 52 growers who entered the relief program, six had significant problems, one being the column’s poster boy. This grower constructed 40 greenhouses without permits, grew indoors when his application was for outdoors and had workers living in cargo containers. An independent hearing officer ruled against him on all accounts, citing the grower’s self-incriminating testimony as proof.
The answer to how local cannabis growers rack up fees and fines is simple. They egregiously violated health, safety and environmental laws. Next question.