Napa County doubles down on cannabis – the answer is NO

Napa County doubles down on cannabis – the answer is NO

Tourism and Winery officials speak out on negative impacts on those industries, other issues

At a recent Board of Supervisors meeting in Napa County, the majority of Napa supervisors agreed that vineyards coexisting with cannabis doesn’t work. “We have an equation that works for Napa.  We can’t afford to take a risk with cannabis cultivation. We will always have an opportunity to grow cannabis in the future if and when it makes sense.”  

Public comments:  

Napa County Farm Bureau concluded that, “…our board of directors remains opposed to any formation of a county ordinance which would permit commercial cannabis cultivation…poses too large of a danger to agricultural operations in the county.”

The threat of an initiative by the cannabis industry was not well received.  Some argued that an initiative would be far worse than an ordinance.  Others argued that cannabis is too big of a threat to Napa’s reputation and the primary tourism business.  

Prop 64 was for adult use, not cultivation

This is Napa’s cannabis association website. 

Visit Napa Valley statement from Linsey Gallaghe, CEO for March 2, 2021 Napa County Board of Supervisors meeting:

Visit Napa Valley’s mission is to promote, protect and enhance the Napa Valley destination and our vision is to elevate the Napa Valley as the world’s premier wine country experience.  On behalf of the hospitality community and our more than 400 members in visitor-serving businesses throughout the valley, we would like to express our opposition to any form of county ordinance that would allow the commercial cultivation of cannabis in Napa County.

The tourism industry has been severely impacted by current global events, including the layers of crisis from the pandemic coupled with the devastating wildfires, and the effects are being felt in every aspect of daily life in Napa Valley.  Commercial cannabis cultivation would further negatively impact the $85 million in annual tax revenue for local services that visitors to our wine region generate, as well as their $2.2 billion economic impact to our local businesses throughout the valley. 

According to our most recent visitor profile study, visitors to the Napa Valley most value the destination’s wine (48% of respondents), followed by the scenery (31%) and atmosphere (16%).  Commercial cannabis cultivation will significantly detract from the top three things our visitors value.  It will tarnish Napa Valley’s reputation and jeopardize the overall visitor experience.

The recovery of wine tourism is imperative to the economic health of Napa Valley, and allowing the commercial cultivation of cannabis here would put all of this at risk.  Any regulations should protect Napa Valley’s primary agricultural product – world class wine – which is the heart of the local tourism industry.  We can look to neighboring Sonoma and Santa Barbara counties for multiple examples of what can go wrong when wine and cannabis cultivation are attempted in the same growing region.  Unsightly hoop houses and overwhelmingly pungent terpene orders are huge detriments to the wine visitor experience as well.  This is not a path we want to go down in Napa Valley.

As the official destination management organization for the Napa Valley, Visit Napa Valley’s primary mission is to promote, protect and enhance the wine region’s position as an attractive travel destination, while also enhancing its public image as a dynamic place to visit, live and work.  Visit Napa Valley, our Board of Directors and our hospitality partners are deeply concerned about the impact commercial cannabis cultivation could have on Napa Valley’s hard-earned reputation as one of the most desirable and iconic wine destinations in the world.  

We are not opposed to personal cultivation of cannabis, its legal distribution, retail sales or consumption.  We are primarily opposed to commercial cultivation of cannabis here in our world-renowned winegrowing region, especially as we begin to rebuild our wine hospitality industry and put our economy back on a path to prosperity.  Thank you.

Dear Chairman Pedroza and Napa County Board of Supervisors,

 I urge the Board to not consider an ordinance or legislation that would permit the commercial cultivation of cannabis in Napa County.  The commercial growing of cannabis should not be allowed at any level in Napa County and has no place alongside the greatest wine growing region in the United States.  Can you imagine Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, or Piedmont having this discussion?  They would not, because these regions recognize the paucity of places in the world that support the growing of world-class wines.

 In addition, I oppose commercial cultivation of cannabis in Napa County based on the following:

  • It would be detrimental to the Napa Brand.  The brand has suffered enough through the Pandemic and Wildfires and will take years to recover.  The mix-message of growing cannabis, pot tourism and “wine and weed” tours will only erode the greatness of the Napa wine brand. 
  • The pro-cannabis groups are targeting the Napa Valley strictly for our name, reputation and the 3.9 million annual visitors.  The targeting is not based on the needs of terroir, but solely to make-a-buck. 
  • Growing of cannabis in the Napa Valley would hurt grape farmers.  Just go ask Kathy Joseph of Fiddlestix Vineyards in Santa Rita.  Because of her vineyard proximity to cannabis houses, she was forced to change from her usual fungicide to a less effective one and she lost an entire crop of Chardonnay because of mildew.  Cannabis and grapes are not compatible.
  • At certain times of the year, the smell of cannabis is overwhelming.  It is not a pleasant smell and in Santa Barbara County, lawsuits and civic protests are happening due to the skunk-like smells emitting from hoop houses and fields. 
  • Please do not confuse commercial cultivation as the same as individual cultivation, personal use and or access to sales.  I am only opposed to commercial cultivation in Napa County. 

I understand that pro-cannabis groups are threatening an initiative.  Fine, let them.  Just because a small group is threatening an initiative is not a good reason to enact an ordinance.  If an initiative is placed on the ballot, I believe it will be soundly defeated by the majority of residents in Napa County. 

Best regards,

Tom C. Davies
V. Sattui Winery, St. Helena, CA

Other concerns raised by organizations and citizens:

  • Strong and unpleasant odor drift at wine grape flowering and harvest
  • Pesticide overspray from one crop type to another (potential disputes)
  • Possible pests and pathogens, impact on vineyards
  • Labor competition and housing implications
  • Water use, impacts on watershed and viewshed
  • Security issues like plant theft, trespassing, strain on law enforcement and cost
  • Potential impact to Napa Valley reputation/brand and tourism

Do any of those sound familiar?

Follow-up article: