Why We Dropped Out

UDJ reporter Ashley Tressel gravely misrepresented my July 11 remarks to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors during public comment on the county’s new cannabis cultivation regulations.

What I said was that my partner and I have chosen not to apply this year for a county cultivation permit because the new regulations are too onerous and costly for our small farm to meet.

The Mendocino Department of Agriculture did NOT deny our application for a cannabis cultivation permit without explanation, as Ms. Tressel reported. We never submitted an application.

My intent was not to berate the Ag Department, whose staff have been helpful and forthcoming, but to implore the BOS to modify the ordinance so that more small farmers can comply.

For the record, here’s the July 11 letter I wrote to the Board of Supervisors:

My name is Jane Futcher. With my wife, I run Wild Women Herbals, a very small cannabis garden on 162 acres south of Laytonville. We were in the county’s 9.31 permit program last year and are members of Emerald Grown Cooperative.

Until about six weeks ago, we were set to apply for an Ag Dept. permit to commercially cultivate 50 plants. We’d been working with an attorney for months to be sure we had all our paper work in order. We have attended many BOS and farmer meetings to keep up to date with the regulation process. We registered with the North Coast Regional Water Board and spent the spring prepping our soil and irrigation.

We weren’t sure we were really ready, but because our ranch is on rangeland, and the Board of Supervisors said no new permits would be allowed on rangeland ever again after this year, we decided to go for it. We wanted to continue our small operation until we were too tired to continue.

But something happened. I’m not sure which hoop you wanted us to jump through became the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Was it learning two months ago, despite four inspections last year — one by the sheriff’s department and three by a third party inspector, that our garage, a perfect drying area, fully insulated and plumbed, would no longer be usable because it is attached to — but not accessible from — our home?

Was it the news that we could not let two young volunteers help us for the summer if we did not buy worker’s comp insurance for them?

Was it learning that the county would require us to provide a wheel chair accessible rest room with septic and paved parking area for our volunteers, who are able bodied?

Was it the complexity of the bookkeeping required to track and trace every plant and all expenses and amendments and sprays applied from seed to processed bud to sale to a distributor?

Was it the excise tax and the plummeting price of cannabis making the costs of cultivation and permitting seem untenable?

Was it a local bank canceling our account because we had a legal cannabis business?

Or was it that you, the Board of Supervisors, told us that no matter how meticulous we farmers were with our operations and applications, you could not protect us from the federal government should they decide to raid us?

We woke up one morning in May and called our lawyer, called the North Coast Regional Water Board, and cancelled our appointment with the Ag Department to submit our application. We informed our co-op and distributor that we were out. We simply did not have the mental, physical and emotional resources to jump through all the hoops of the ordinance.

We are fortunate. Unlike many small farmers, we are not totally dependent on cannabis to put food on the table, cover healthcare costs, pay our property taxes or raise families.

I would ask the board this? How do you expect small farmers to jump through all the hoops you and the state have asked of us?

Why are you lowering the property values, in perpetuity, for those of us in ranch land and TPZ zones and ranch lands?

Won’t county services suffer without the income from property taxes if property values sink?

I support and admire the small farmers who have decided to go ahead with the permitting process. If we were younger, we might conceivably forge ahead, with fingers crossed that sun grown, organic, craft cannabis from Mendocino County’s small farms will command the respect of consumers for years to come.

In the meantime, I urge you to do everything in your power to provide the flexibility and foresight you promised small farmers so that they can survive and the county can prosper.

 

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