Colusa County’s first cannabis workshop in Williams last week was exactly what one would expect, given 57 percent of voters in the November 2016 election led to the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in California.
Although not a big crowd, most of those attending the workshop at the Williams Community Center were potential growers looking to reap the financial benefits of a booming industry.
“I hope California will nurture the cannabis industry and treat it the same way they treated the wine industry,” said Rick Matthew of Sacramento County.
KNOW AND GO
Princeton: March 8 – Princeton Jr./Sr. High School (473 State St.)
Arbuckle: March 13 – Arbuckle-College City Fire Hall (506 Lucas St.)
Maxwell: March 14 – Maxwell American Legion Hall (250 Oak St.)
Colusa: March 21 – Colusa VFW Hall (108 E. Main St.)
Stonyford: March 22 – Sonyford Community Hall (229 Market St.)
All workshops begin at 6 PM
Matthew is one of several growers who will be looking for land partners to start a greenhouse operation, should the Board of Supervisors modify the county’s “no-weed” ordinance to allow commercial cannabis in the unincorporated areas of Colusa County.
Matthew said just one acre of land would allow a 22,000 square-foot growing canopy, and would employ about 20 agriculture workers.
“It’s a good clean business,” he said. “We have all the equipment. We just need the land.”
Growers know that the price of marijuana, which currently averages about $1,600 a pound, according to BDS Analytics, which tracks sales of about 1,300 strains, could taper down to about $600 a pound as the market adjusts to the flood of new operations.
Growing is still a sound investment, Matthew said, but perhaps not lucrative enough, given also the cost of the new environmental regulations, for him to invest in the purchase of prime farmland.
The Colusa County Board of Supervisors hired De Novo Planning Group to facilitate the workshops, of which six more are scheduled this month.
Ben Ritchie, the county’s consultant, said the purpose of the workshops would be to identify both the benefits and concerns of commercial cannabis possibilities, which include cultivation, manufacturing, testing, and distribution in Colusa County, all of which are currently prohibited in the unincorporated areas of the county, with the exception of the personal cultivation allowances mandated by the state.
“I don’t like it,” said Jean Terkildsen of Williams. “I have kids and grandkids. I don’t like it for Colusa County.”
Although the cities of Williams and Colusa have embraced the cannabis industry, farmers like Terkildsen know how precious water can be in drought-stricken times, one of the concerns raised at the workshop.
Canvassing by the Mendocino Cannabis Policy Council and other groups estimate that an average cannabis plant bearing two to four pounds of processed flower would need two to four gallons of water per day, respectively, during the growing season.
Water quality (pesticide runoff), odor, crime, federal opposition, and county image rounded out other concerns should the county add marijuana to its long list of cash crops.
Currently, Yolo and Butte counties allow outdoor cultivation in the Mid-valley area. Most, with the exception of Glenn and Yuba, only allow indoor cultivation. No county in the area allows manufacturing, although manufacturing (creation of essential oils, edibles, and other products from processed marijuana) is allowed in the cities of Williams and Colusa.
Only Lake County allows retail sales of marijuana.
But even without pot dispensaries, which, for the time being, are unpopular with most local agencies, revenue opportunities for Colusa County – if cultivation or manufacturing is allowed – could be found in permitting and inspection fees, conditional use permit fees, development agreements, prop 218 tax measures, and increase in property tax revenue. Ritchie said.
“The county can regulate cannabis or ban it outright,” he said.
What the county cannot do, Ritchie said, is ban personal indoor use and indoor cultivation of six plants or fewer, or ban possession of up to 28.5 grams non-concentrated marijuana or 8 grams concentrated marijuana products.
“Federally, it’s still illegal,” he said.
A total of seven workshops will be held throughout the county. Each will cover the same topics and seek the same input.
Colusa County residents not attending the workshops can complete a survey online on the county’s website www.countyofcolusa.org.
Ritchie said following the last workshop on March 22, a summary report will be prepared and presented to the Colusa County Board of Supervisors.
“The Board will consider the public input as they decide how to proceed or not with the development of local cannabis regulations,” he said. ■