Sonoma County Pot Growers Say They Need More Time to Go Legit

An effort to get cannabis operators in Sonoma County permitted early has fallen flat.

With an Aug. 31 deadline looming, just 33 existing cannabis businesses have applied to legitimize their operations, compared to the 5,000 farmers the county estimates are currently in business.

“It’s a trickle when we were expecting an avalanche,” Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said

The operators can still get a permit after the deadline, but they would face hefty land-use fines. Industry leaders are also urging the county to extend the deadline, saying the economic impact of these fines on farmers would be tremendous.

Cannabis industry consultant and former Sebastopol mayor Craig Litwin called it “the most urgent matter I’ve seen before the Board of Supervisors.”

Sonoma County opened the application process up on July 5, but most applicants found the required supplementary reports overwhelming. A number of would-be operators appeared before the Board to express just how difficult, if not impossible, it would be to complete the requirements on time.

Without a solution, “the county is about to close the door on hundreds of would-be licensed tax-paying cannabis businesses for an arbitrary deadline set last year,” said Sonoma County Growers Alliance Chairwoman Tawnie Logan. “That gave them eight months to meet the single most stringent set of standards ever given to any agricultural business.”

Unfortunately, even if it wants to, the Board won’t be able to take action before that Aug. 31 deadline. The earliest they can get the matter on the agenda is Sept. 12. The best they could do is then make the fix retroactive to cover the people who couldn’t make it in on time.

It seems likely they’ll do just that. After all, the county has an interest in bringing these businesses out of the shadows too.



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