Sonoma County Board of Supervisors
United States of America

Thousands of local existing and current cannabis operators were disqualified from participating in the commercial cannabis permitting program due to a variety of restrictions set forth in Ordinance 6189, passed in December 2016. These disqualifiers range from current zoning banned, cost of compliance to obtain the necessary licensed professional reports, to simply not having enough time or access to accredited funding to transition onto new properties or to bring existing property up to code.

With the cost of real estate skyrocketing in Sonoma County, there are simply not enough properties available for displaced operators in AR/RR to move and afford the cost of permitting in just eight months.

Many licensed professionals have increased rates, and are difficult to book for timely reports, many operators are unsure if their property will comply, and submittal of their applications are pending a due diligence period before paying thousands of dollars to submit an application.

It seems that the Penalty Relief Program deadline for submitting permit applications, August 31st, was developed to incentivize farmers to participate before harvest. However, this timeline gave local operators, many of whom were disqualified or displaced only eight months to raise banking capital, find appropriately zoned parcels that meet the stringent and necessary environmental requirements and prepare an application.

While the ‘existing’ transition operators are allowed to submit an application without the required reports until December 31, 2017, these reports are in fact their due diligence before paying thousands of dollars in application fees.

Many licensed professionals who conduct the various services required for permitting, such as biotic assessments, water and wastewater studies and plans, site plans and permit preparation have expressed they too are overwhelmed with the deadline, as the quantity of inquiries and contracts have created a logjam.

Your local operators need more time to transition. Eight months would not work for any other agricultural industry to transition into major regulatory changes, and traditional ag businesses have a robust support network with grants, subsidies, and access to bank loans for the infrastructure investments to bring their operations into compliance.

The State of California has acknowledged this very difficult transition to come into compliance and will allow operators until January 2019 to shift from caregiver/collective model to submitting a commercial cannabis license. That is a three-year window that was set and is still an ambitious timeline for government and operators alike.

If Sonoma County truly intends to realize a successful implementation of the commercial cannabis program that includes cottage operators and small businesses, it must nurture the process. The resources are minimal and the expectations for performance are high. If there are no other programs offered by the county to assist operators in this transition, then time must be extended to allow operators to come into compliance. The alternative will create a deeper divide between the well-financed operations that can develop quickly and the thousands of local citizens that risk being treated like black market criminals because they couldn't procure funding and resources to re-establish in just eight months.

We the undersigned respectfully request that the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors vote to extend the Penalty Relief Program deadline for pre-existing and current cannabis operators to submit their applications for commercial cannabis permits to June 30, 2018.

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The Extend the Penalty Relief Program petition to Sonoma County Board of Supervisors was written by scgalliance.com and is in the category Business at GoPetition.