More than 40 people were on hand at last Wednesday’s community cannabis forum in Colusa, the sixth of seven community meetings put on by the Board of Supervisors as an effort to gauge their constituents’ interest in allowing certain commercial cannabis uses in the county.
The crowd gathered at the Veterans Hall in Colusa on Wednesday was the largest at any of the county’s community cannabis forums. Because the crowd was so large, it was broken down into smaller groups of between four and six people, each of which discussed the pros and cons of the commercial cannabis industry.
Before that happened, Ben Ritchie – a principal with De Novo Planning Group, which is facilitating the meetings for the county – fielded a number of questions and concerns from the group as a whole. Some of them had been raised at other meetings – such as cannabis’ federal illegality, and the lack of federally insured banking options for commercial cannabis businesses.
Other concerns included how cannabis businesses would impact nearby property values and taxes, and where their waste products will go.
Jen Roberts, who attended the meeting in Colusa because she wasn’t able to make the meeting in her hometown of Arbuckle, asked why retail sale was taken off the table for the public to discuss, and how the board of supervisors arrived at that decision.
“Based on the discussions I’ve heard from the board, I don’t know that I’d completely characterize it as completely off the table,” said Greg Plucker, the county’s community development director. “What the board did is express a whole bunch of concerns, with a whole bunch of the different types of licenses. During those discussions, I think (with) outdoor grows and retail sales, the level of concern was elevated to another level.”
Plucker added that if the board does move forward with any amendments to the zoning code to allow for commercial cannabis uses, he didn’t think that outdoor grows and retail sales would be among those in the “first go-round.”
During the smaller group session, Roberts said that some of her primary concerns with the industry were related to security and how grow facilities might impact the rural, outdoor nature of the county. She also said that from a philosophical perspective, people have a right to grow the agricultural products they want to grow – even if that product is cannabis.
“I don’t feel the government should step in and say you can’t grow it,” Roberts said. “I’m worried about over-regulation with the county.”
Roberts said that in any event, the county should establish limits on the number of cannabis businesses and move forward slowly and incrementally.
“You can allow a certain number of operations, and evaluate from there,” she said.
Fellow Arbuckle resident Erik Kolderup – an independent energy modeling consultant by trade – said that the indoor grow facilities are huge users of power, and suggested that outdoor grows have less of an impact.
“When you think about it, what you are doing indoors is recreating the sun,” Kolderup said. “These grow facilities use more energy than these huge Google and Facebook data centers. Colorado has a number of these big growing facilities and they are requiring more power plants to be built.”
Kolderup said he wondered if the county could auction off growing licenses as a way to generate revenue, assuming that they put a cap on the number of projects they would allow initially.
Santana King, a Colusa resident, said that as someone who works with high school kids, she was concerned that allowing commercial cannabis uses in the county would normalize cannabis use for the local youth.
“One of the issues we’re seeing is kids are seeing it as less dangerous,” King, who works for the Colusa County department of public health, said. King also commented that the county should only consider allowing cannabis uses in places where they would not have an impact on neighboring property owners, and that the county should make it known where any new revenue from the industry would go, if it were to be allowed. ■