The Hybrid Creative gets real with Noreen Evans, candidate for the Sonoma County 5th District Supervisor seat, to ask her about how she’d manage the local cannabis industry.

This election there is a seat open on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and there is no doubt that whoever wins the seat will have a great influence on the future of the cannabis industry in Sonoma County. The Board of Supervisors will decide how many cannabis licenses are granted and how they’re zoned. The Board also governs the Sonoma County Water Agency, the Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District, the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, County Sanitation Districts, and the Community Development Commission. In short–whoever wins the election will have a lasting impact on Sonoma County.

We sat down with one of the candidates, Noreen Evans, whom we know from her time serving as State Senator of the 2nd district.

The Hybrid Creative:

“What do you think about the cannabis industry in Sonoma County and how it’s evolving?”

wineyards_sonomacountyNoreen Evans:

“With respect to cannabis there are two issues that need to be dealt with immediately by the county. One is the regulation and taxation under the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act and the second one will depend on whether voters approve the Adult Use of Marijuana Act in November. Overall the county is really behind in working with the industry to craft regulations that bring the industry out of the shadows and encourage the continuation of small, local growers manufacturers and producers.”

Hybrid:

“Are you familiar with the cannabis industry as it exists in Sonoma County?”

Evans:

I don’t think that the County of Sonoma has kept up on what the needs of the industry will be when it becomes legalized.

“Well I worked with the cannabis industry in four different counties that I represented in my Senate district: Humboldt, Mendocino, Lake, and Sonoma as well as Marin, Napa, and Solano Counties so I’m familiar with the industry on the north coast and have been for a long time. It’s been changing very rapidly and it’s a challenge to stay current on what those changes are. That’s one of the things I’m a little concerned about is that I don’t think that the County of Sonoma has kept up on what the needs of the industry will be when it becomes legalized.”

Hybrid:

“Do you have concerns about the cannabis industry’s growth in Sonoma County?”

Evans:5602612680_95db0d155f_o

“Yeah it could be exponential and I don’t think we have a really good grasp on what will happen in Sonoma County if we do look at exponential growth. California is probably the biggest producer of cannabis in the United States. Sonoma County is one of the largest producers in the state of California so we have some huge opportunities here but if we don’t treat them right, they’ll become challenges.”

Hybrid:

“If you were sitting on the Board of Supervisors now, do you know what regulations and zoning you would advise the county to adopt to comply with MCRSA (Medical Cannabis Regulations and Safety Act)?”

I think it advantages larger producers and growers over smaller ones, which I don’t support.

Evans:

“Well the understanding I have is that the current proposal allows grows only in LEA (Land Extensive Agriculture District) and LIA (Land Intensive Agriculture District) zoning codes and prohibits growing in rural and residential where most local cannabis grows are currently. So this proposal would drive local producers underground, wouldn’t put them out of business, but it’s contrary to our goal of bringing the industry out of the shadows. I think it advantages larger producers and growers over smaller ones, which I don’t support.”

Hybrid:

“And what about the manufacturing, testing, and other license types?”

Evans:

“So growing and manufacturing come with separate challenges when we’re talking about the rural and residential zoning for both growing and manufacturing, we’ll need some conditional use permits that have very strict regulations on what can and cannot be done and need to be enforced very carefully. And it really depends on what’s being manufactured and what the process is. Some of the processes for manufacturing can be hazardous and can use hazardous substances so we would need to regulate them differently than for manufacturing processes that don’t have those problems.”

Hybrid:

“I believe that’s built in to the existing legislation with licenses for “volatile manufacturing” and licenses for “non-volatile manufacturing. What would you do if you were on the County board of supervisors to move this process forward and when would you want to see these licenses begin to be granted by the county?”

noreen-evans-for-supervisor-logo-round-cannabis

Since Noreen is encouraging her supporters to make their own home-made campaign signs, we came up this this apropos modification. (Not an official Noreen Evans for Supervisor design)

Evans:

“AUMA would go into effect immediately if it passes and MCRSA will take effect January 2018. The way that I understand that the county is proceeding is with this idea that we’re going to proceed very cautiously and adopt very narrow regulations at this point with the idea that we’ll expand them later on. The problem is that in the meantime there is an enormous amount of damage that can be done if we don’t do this correctly. So if we don’t do it right, we’re going to be in the position of undoing the damage we’ve done so I would prefer to avoid doing the damage at all. It’s surprising to me that Sonoma County has not moved more quickly because this has been coming for many many years and to wait until the last minute is not a good idea.”

Hybrid:

“Do you have any concerns about water usage?”

Evans:

“I have a lot of concerns about water usage. It’s going to be an ongoing issue. Let me address one thing and that’s about illegal grows and the impacts on not only water availability but water quality and the impacts on wildlife. The first thing we want to do is get rid of those illegal grows and make sure that we’re protecting the water resources that we have. So then the second problem is: will we be able to sustain the cannabis industry locally with the water that we have? The county is in the process of studying the availability of groundwater in the county. That’s under the sustainable groundwater and management act which I supported when I was in the state capital. Until we have an understanding of how much groundwater we have–it will be impossible to know how we allocate that. So we’re a little bit ahead of ourselves in talking about that now. But cannabis is an agricultural product and I don’t think we can discriminate among agricultural uses and products. We need to be fair across the board so whatever we do for existing agriculture, we need to do for cannabis as well.”

…Cannabis is an agricultural product and I don’t think we can discriminate…

Hybrid:

“Do you support the Adult Use of Marijuana Act?”

Evans:

“I haven’t taken a position on this particular proposal. It has its flaws. Generally I have supported the legalization of the adult use of cannabis. This particular initiative looks like it is going to pass. The county can do a lot with respect to its zoning code regulations to address the flaws in AUMA.”

Hybrid:

“Any final thoughts?”

Evans:

“This is a really exciting opportunity. Since the days of prohibition we haven’t actually had a new industry like this that we have the opportunity at the very beginning to decide how it’s going to be treated, how it’s going to be regulated, and how it’s going to be taxed. It’s the first new source of revenue that local government has since Proposition 13 was passed in 1978. So it’s an enormous opportunity and I just don’t want to blow it. I want to do it right. It’s going to affect us for generations.”

Our local government affects our lives in significant ways. This is felt strongly within the cannabis industry as crucial policies and regulations are rolling out. The industry and community at large now has the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation around these important issues. We encourage you to do just that: engage your local leaders, tell them how cannabis policies will affect your family, your livelihood, and your community. And for pity’s sake, VOTE!

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