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Rory Savatgy

Future Hazy for Sonoma County Cannabis Cultivators Following New Zoning Laws

A plan approved by Sonoma County California’s Board of Supervisors last December could force thousands of the region’s cannabis growers out of business, resulting in the loss of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenues, according to a Press Democrat report. The law bans large-scale commercial cannabis cultivation in areas outside the city limits.

Many of the growers affected are described as “mom and pop” businesses and have few options due to the rising cost of local land. Cultivators would be able to move their operations to the county’s agricultural, resources, and industrial zones.

Erin Carlstron, an attorney who represents about 50 of the cultivators, said the new order is causing “a lot of anxiety” for her clients.

“There’s no path forward for them,” she said in the report.

According to the report, county code enforcement steps began last month after about 15 to 20 complaints about growing in single-family homes. Tennis Wick, the county planning director, indicated that such grows are illegal throughout the county and that officials would start cracking down on outdoor operations after the planting season arrives.

Supervisor James Gore indicated that no other businesses are allowed to operate in residential areas and questioned why they would make an exception for any industry.

The county would need between $700,000 and $1.2 million to hire staff to enforce the new regulations, according to a county analysis outlined in the report.

In March, voters will decide whether to approve a 10 percent tax on the gross receipts of licensed cannabis operators, which is not supported by the Sonoma County Growers Alliance because the tax would “exceed profitability.”

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