No local pot measure to appear on November ballot

Colusa County voters will not see an advisory measure on the Nov 6, 2018 ballot asking them if they would like to see cannabis operations allowed in the unincorporated areas of Maxwell, Princeton, Arbuckle and Grimes.

The Board of Supervisors, who toyed with abandoning their current pot ban long enough to hold community meetings on the subject earlier this year, decided last week not to proceed until the marijuana industry itself is more stable.

Nearly three years after a majority of Californians voted to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, the state’s legal pot growers and distributors will now have to abide by strict new rules that could potentially weed out thousands of smaller producers.

New regulations governing the testing, packaging, and labeling of cannabis products went into effect July 1, in part causing the County Board of Supervisors to scrap their plan to ask voters what they think about mirroring Colusa and Williams’ ambition to have the potentially-lucrative marijuana industry help balance their books.

To consider a ballot measure, the board would have needed to approve a resolution – with specific and narrowly tailored questions about cannabis production – and have them submitted to elections officials by mid-July in order to provide enough time for them to process the measure for the midterm election, officials said.

“The timing is really difficult to do this now,” said Supervisor Denise Carter, at the board’s June 26 meeting.

While Colusa County Counsel Marcos Kroph advised them they could move the measure forward quickly with an ad hoc committee and a special meeting, Supervisors voiced other concerns, including cost to taxpayers and potentially low voter turnout in a non-presidential election.

They also felt that the measure would likely garner the same countywide results as 2016’s Proposition 64, which ultimately legalized marijuana for use by adults over 21.

While California voters passed Prop 64 statewide with 57 percent in favor, 56 percent of Colusa County voters opposed the legalization of pot.

The Board of Supervisors got similar results from a survey taken this year in all seven Colusa County communities by the county’s planning consultant.

The majority of people in all seven communities were against outdoor cultivation of marijuana, according to De Novo Planning Group, who released the results of the survey on May 21.

Colusa, Williams and Maxwell residents said they would be OK with indoor cultivation, and only Colusa residents appeared to be comfortable with indoor manufacturing and processing.

As with Prop 64, which legalized pot, the county’s consultant estimated that only 44 percent of county residents approve of cannabis operations in their communities.

“The De Nova outreach by and large mirrored the previous ballot measure, countywide,” said Board Chairman Gary Evans, who favors keeping the county’s current cannabis ordinance in place, and keeping commercial cannabis operations out of the county.

Evans said the county should not readdress the issue of marijuana until the state and the industry get “their collective act together.”

Even Carter, who has been generally favorable toward cannabis or hemp cultivation as an agricultural potential, said the industry needed to become more stable before the county takes additional steps.

According to a June 28 Bloomberg report, the California (Cannabis) Growers Association estimate that half of the state’s 50,000 to 60,000 pot farms will be driven out of business by the new rules, and many will revert back to the black market. Small growers are having the hardest time making the transition to the costly new rules, the report said.

Evans said when the county is more confident, the Board would form an ad hoc committee to look at language to put before the voters.

“If we want to go down that road,” he added.