Proposed Colusa pot facility jumps first hurdle

A start-up cannabis manufacturing company got the thumbs up from the Colusa Planning Commission last Wednesday to proceed with the first pot-growing facility within city limits.

Big Moon Sky jumped the first hurdle in the process, after the Colusa Planning Commission voted 3-0 to approve the development agreement for a temporary facility on Eighth Street in Colusa’s Riverfront District.

Planning Commission President Richard Selover called the company the new “Amazon of Cannabis,” as Big Moon Sky plans to produce and then sell over the Internet a full range of cannabis products, including flowers, oils, edibles, and tinctures.

“We are an e-commerce company,” said Zach Crafton, Big Moon Sky’s founder, owner, and chief executive officer.

Although the Colusa City Council will have final approval when it hears the company’s request for a special use and regulatory permit, possibly at their Aug. 15 meeting, Big Moon Sky hopes to open within the month.

The company’s growing and packaging operation will be from two portable trailers, totaling about 1,344 square-feet, located in the parking lot across from ColUSA Made and the Tap Room. The company is affiliated with the Triple Crown Growers project, proposed for the Riverbend Estates Subdivision of Colusa, on East Clay Street.

Big Moon Sky ultimately hopes to open a permanent facility at that location, should the Triple Crown Growers project come to fruition, city officials said.

Crafton, who has spent the last five years in the direct-to-consumer wine industry in the Napa Valley, said he plans to focus on medical cannabis, although the legal sale of marijuana for recreational use kicks in Jan. 1.

Crafton said cannabis manufacturing is largely divided between products high in THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects, and products high in CBD, or cannabinoid, which is largely used medicinally for the treatment of specific disease conditions.

At least to start, Crafton said his products would be largely geared toward pain relief.

“These are primarily CBD products,” he said.

Crafton added that Big Moon Sky’s products would be available to anyone in California over the age of 21, who holds a medical marijuana recommendation card (until no longer required), except Colusa County residents, who will be excluded, per the terms of the agreement with the city.

Bryan Stice, senior planner for the City of Colusa, said the packaging and distribution of cannabis products are permitted uses under the city’s new cannabis regulations, and that no environmental review under CEQA would be required for the temporary project, as it will occupy less than five acres.

No company will be allowed to dispense the product locally, city officials said.

The operation is described as a pick and packaging facility, where approximately eight employees would put together orders received online, and then ship to two distribution centers: one in Los Angeles that delivers via private currier to customers in Southern California; and one in San Francisco that delivers to customers in Northern California.

No cannabis would be delivered across state lines in keeping with federal law, Crafton said.

Per the agreement, the City of Colusa will receive 3 percent of Big Moon Sky’s total retail sales (or $3,000 per every $100,000 in sales), which will be paid to the city monthly in the form of a production fee.

Although cannabis companies interested in growing marijuana in Colusa have been welcomed with open arms by local government, few, including Big Moon Sky, have received the same welcome from members of the public at any of the hearings.

Former City Councilman John Rogers, whose property borders the proposed operation, and who owns two properties on East Clay Street where the permanent facility might be built, said in just seven months, Big Moon Sky is the fourth business that wants to come into Colusa.

“I don’t like it,” Rogers said. “It’s not good for the youth, and I can speak from experience with that. I spoke before the City Council. There’s no family in the City of Colusa that hasn’t been touched, and it all started when these kids were 14 and started smoking this stuff, and it just went on to harder stuff. I don’t care about its distribution, or that it travels up and down the highway after it leaves Colusa, I just don’t want to see it in the city of Colusa.”

Janice Bell, of the Colusa County Sheriff’s Emergency Services, urged the Planning Commission to take care of Colusa’s citizens first by allowing her and others to learn more about the project before the city proceeds, because very little information about Big Moon Sky has been made public.

“It’s very important, and a lot of people are not aware of what is going on,” she said.

Supervisor Denise Carter also echoed similar concerns.

“This is a product that, yes, the voters have made it legal, but I just really don’t want to see Colusa become the cannabis capital of Northern California, and that’s what we’re (becoming) known for,” Carter said. “We’re a really charming, old-fashioned town, and I think it affects our values in our town.”

Although cannabis manufacturing has been likened locally to the production of rice, which is grown in Colusa County and distributed elsewhere, the point of sale for Big Moon Sky’s marijuana product is Colusa, and will be subjected to sales tax come Jan. 1.

As of November 9, 2016, the sale of medical marijuana has been exempt from sales and use taxes, according to the California Board of Equalization.

Effective Jan. 1, 2018, however, a 15 percent excise tax will be imposed upon purchases of all marijuana and marijuana products.

Additionally, a tax on cultivators of marijuana is imposed at $9.25 per dry-weight ounce of marijuana flowers, and $2.75 per dry-weight ounce of marijuana leaves.

Crafton said because the cost of manufacturing cannabis products is expensive, so is the cost of the products themselves.