Sonoma County eyes ‘streamlined’ permitting of cannabis cultivation
The special status that cannabis cultivation permitting has enjoyed over the four years since it was legalized in the state of California by the passage of Prop. 64 may become a little less special later this year in Sonoma County, should a proposed General Plan amendment go into effect that will manage cannabis cultivation similarly to other crops’ agricultural uses.
In brief, the recommended changes to the General Plan include cannabis in the Agricultural Resources Element’s definitions “to establish policies to ensure the stability and productivity of the county’s agricultural land and industries,” along with other food, fiber and plant material production.
“This is a smart and bold approach,” said Amy Jenkins, a cannabis policy lobbyist who lives in Sonoma. “As an agricultural crop produced for human consumption, this is exactly how we want cannabis to be treated.”
The current use permit process involves multiple stages of review and studies across numerous government agencies. A proposed amendment to the county General Plan would recognize cannabis as an agricultural crop consistent with state law.
Four public “virtual town halls,” each presenting the same information, will be held on two separate days, Monday, March 8, and Friday, March 12, to hear about proposed policy changes that the Cannabis Ad Hoc study group recommends. The recommendations would “streamline permitting for commercial cannabis cultivation in agricultural and resource-zoned areas of unincorporated Sonoma County,” according to the county’s public affairs office.
The listening sessions will provide the public an overview of staff's recommended changes to cannabis operator permitting, and will collect feedback as part of the 30-day public comment period, which began on Feb. 16. The virtual town halls will be facilitated by B.J. Bischoff.
Additional comments can be emailed to Cannabis@Sonoma-County.org before noon on March 18, when a public hearing before the County of Sonoma Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, is expected to consider the proposed permitting changes April 13.
For more information, email Cannabis@Sonoma-County.org or call 707-565-2431.