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Pot Ordinance Wishful Thinking

Be sure and read Mark Scaramella’s front-page report (in the AVA and The Observer newspaper) on the latest efforts by County officials to pump some life into the lifeless, four-year old deader-than-a-doornail Cannabis Ordinance. The beached-whale Ordinance is recognized by all who have been paying attention to the zig and then the zag of this failed monstrosity, know that there is no hope of ever resurrecting it.

Pointing to the unworkable nature of the existing Ordinance, Scaramella quotes Supe Ted Williams explaining, “But one of the primary concerns is available staff. It seems that there are 272 current permits, all of which will need staff time to complete the CEQA checklist, the project description, work with the state agencies to get the applicants to the stage of the annual permits. So that’s 272. Say hypothetically those take 14 hours apiece. You are talking about 3808 hours. And then we have 882 [applications] that are not yet at the county license stage. Some of these applicants have not heard back from the county in three years. So what is the current state? We don’t know. It may be that the county asked for additional paperwork. It may be that the applicant emailed that to an Ag employee directly who is no longer with us. It could be that information services could pull it out of the email box, but trying to match up addresses with pending applicants — it’s a mess! It’s foreseen that it may take five hours per file just to make sense of the current state. You have 882 that are in this situation. At five hours each, just doing a little back of the napkin math here, that’s 4410 hours. And those 882 will also require a CEQA checklist at those 14 hours again. So now we are up to 20,566 hours. If we figure 40 hour weeks and maybe that staff is 75% efficient because of internal staff meetings and trainings and contact switching, you are talking about 385 human weeks…”

Scaramella also corrects Williams’ calculations: “If we understand Supervisor Williams correctly, that should be 20,556 / 30 (75% of 40) or 685 human weeks, not 385 human weeks, an even bigger workload.”

Indeed it is a much bigger workload and also represents additonal fees that applicants will have to pay since these are all recoverable costs by the county’s reckoning.

Even the Ordinance’s primary architect and principal author, Supervisor John McCowen, has thrown in the towel and admitted that it’s just not workable. Time to go in a different direction, says McCowen.

McCowen now advocates replacing it with something similar to what I’ve proposed for the past several years: What needs to be done is repeal in most parts, the existing non-workable cultivation Ordinance, thereby deferring to the state’s regulatory framework, rules and regulations. That would bring the county into line with the state on many levels, and the result would be an exceptionally lean and streamlined process that focuses locally on land use rules setting out where and how much pot can be grown in Mendocino County (most likely on Ag Land with a one-half acre cap, and Range Land with legacy growers grandfathered in with transferability rights, and also grandfathering mom and pop growers in neighborhood groups known as “overlay zones.”)

Additionally, the new Ordinance, which I call the “State Option,” would incorporate by reference most, if not all, of the current Ordinance’s provisions dealing with code and environmental protections.

Ninety percent of this County’s growers have already voted with their feet by staying as far away as possible from the county seat and its failed Cannabis Ordinance. Four years of crushing, crashing, malfunctioning failure leaves little doubt there is nothing that can be done to save it.

Insanely preposterous political correctness

A reader sent me the following piece that is another example of the idiocy and anti-democratic underpinnings of political correctness. A district attorney in Contra Costa County, with definite Stalinist leanings, has told her subordinates to look and consider whether looting by “protestors” at Black Lives Matter demonstrations was done “for financial gain or personal need” when deciding about whether to prosecute a case or not.

The policy was instituted by Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton as a result of the outbreak of street protest-related looting, and that policy has been in place since June. The policy also requires prosecutors to consider four other factors, including whether the looted business was open or closed at the time.

Dr. Sean Wright, the mayor of Antioch, California, fumed against the order.

“When I read the policy, it was disturbing,” Mayor Wright said. “I understand the difference between protesting and looting. Peaceful protesting is OK, looting is not. At what point does our district attorney’s office advocate for the victims? If it’s not the district attorney’s office, who then becomes the advocate and safety net for the victims and ensuring restitution is made? For the district attorney to put out that kind of plan is irresponsible and where do you exactly draw the line on need because these are people’s businesses that are being impacted and livelihoods that are being destroyed.”

After being a judge in the county for 22 years, Becton was elected in 2017 to be the first woman and African American to be district attorney in Contra Costa County.

On Independence Day, she charged a local couple with a hate crime after they painted over a “Black Lives Matter” mural.

Besides examining need and if the business was open or closed, the looting policy asks prosecutors to consider how the accused entered the facility, the “nature/quantity/value of the goods targeted,” and if another law could be substituted for looting.

So what do you think, I think this is pure PC insanity. As former S.F. Mayor and long-time California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown recently said, “What we need to do is have everyone, including the media, stop calling the after-dark destruction ‘demonstrations.’ The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. did not cross the bridge at Selma under cover of darkness. You can’t even read a protest sign at night. The demonstrations end when the sun goes down. After that, it’s trouble for trouble’s sake. The people tearing up the cities don’t care about elections. Most of them don’t even vote.”

Ms. Contra Costa County DA needs to pay attention to Willie Brown, someone who has forgotten more about social justice issues than she’ll ever know, as hobbled as she is by straight-jacket PCism.

(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live:


  1. Ted Williams September 16, 2020

    Realistic next steps to cannabis permitting will be on 9/22 agenda. Publication tomorrow.

    • James Marmon September 16, 2020

      Ted, you’re not just spreading “a false sense of hope” are you?


      • Ted Williams September 17, 2020

        Solutions are simple. Determine how much time is needed to process applications and staff appropriately. Or, pull the plug, but don’t say we’re going to get it done without adequate resources.

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