Thursday, April 05, 2018

Rural California residents protest cannabis growers

A Save Our Sonoma Neighborhoods map shows existing
growers in red and new growers in blue. (Click to enlarge)
Sonoma County, California, is well-known for producing wine, but cannabis has become a popular crop too since marijuana was legalized in the state, and some of Sonoma's rural residents aren't crazy about it.

"Rural neighbors are concerned that increased traffic from recreational cannabis farms — and the planting, cultivating, trimming and processing that they require — will damage the rugged landscapes, use up scarce water resources and invite crime into areas that have little access to law enforcement support," Ray Holley reports for The Healdsburg Tribune.

According to a countywide volunteer organization called Save Our Sonoma Neighborhoods, the biggest problem is that county officials treat cannabis as agriculture and not like an industry. So county regulations encourage cannabis growers to locate in rural areas that aren't otherwise useful.

But area resident Steve Imbibo told Holley that industrial zones are the best place for cannabis growers. He also said a regulation that favors existing growers has backfired. "He says that small, outlaw growers who existed for years in remote areas are being used 'for cover' by outside investors who come in and take advantage of the regulations to claim an existing use, Holley reports. "They throw a bunch of plants in the ground and they qualify as existing growers," Imbibo said.

Growers, meanwhile, say they're frustrated because the regulations are burdensome and the taxes and fees are too high. Both sides of the conflict plan to attend the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting on April 10.

Calaveras County, to the west, is facing a similar problem with rural residents who aren't happy with the burgeoning cannabis industry.

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