CLEARLAKE—This week at the Clearlake Judge’s Breakfast Forum, guest speakers Planning Commissioner Erin McCarrick and Code Enforcement Officer Marcus Beltramo discussed water use and reduction measures in the cannabis industry.
McCarrick discussed several aspects of the cannabis industry, focusing on the use of water in licensed and unlicensed grow sites. Currently, a state reporting system is in place for growers to help the state water board track water use in the industry, but such a system only includes operations. permitted, leaving the state to guess the total amount of water used by illicit cannabis cultivation.
Compared to other crops, cannabis uses much less water, which McCarrick explained. “How do we view water use as a community, as a whole? And cannabis definitely spurred that conversation. McCarrick then highlighted different practices used by various farms for water conservation, such as dry farming which McCarrick says is “where you let the roots find the water and cannabis is very creative in doing that. “. The Department of Community Development recognizes the need for the cannabis industry to evolve rapidly and continuously and rewrites prescriptions to accommodate them where necessary.
As the city and county move forward with cleaning up long-neglected land, many in the community wonder when they will see an end to unauthorized cannabis operations. In response, Beltramo shared that the Code Enforcement Department had recently received a Cannabis Grant which was used to hire a dedicated Cannabis Agent, who handles all cannabis-related issues. They also received new satellite images that allow them to see unauthorized operations if they are not allowed to enter on foot and now have access to a scent meter, which can measure odors in the air. After acquiring the appropriate training, code enforcers will use these tools to further investigate these growths.
With these new strategies, the code enforcement department focused on a few problem areas, including Double Eagle, Twin Lakes and Big Valley, and compiled a list of more than 200 potential illicit cultivation properties to begin investigating. “We have a new tool released by this council here that allows us to issue citations and those are tough penalties. Once you get up to 500 plants, those are big penalties and a lot of the crops we process are over 500 plants. Beltramo noted when discussing how the department is moving forward with the ability to fine owners for violations. Supervisor Bruno Sabatier added, “Historically in Lake County we have never fined a single property for illegal cultivation, we are starting to do that…. Without fines, we really don’t scare anyone.
At a recent BOS meeting reviewing mid-year budget adjustments, deputy county chief administrator Stephen Carter said that overall cannabis as a revenue stream is “doing well. “. According to his presentation to the board, this year the county has already received just over $6 million, although he said county officials do not expect the same for the rest of the year. year. Carter noted at the time that those funds, by policy, typically go to departments such as code enforcement, law enforcement, housing, harm reduction and economic development.
The breakfast forum will reconvene next Thursday and continue the cannabis industry discussion with McCarrick presenting the California supply chain with special guest Chris Jennings of Lakeside Herbal Solutions.
Recently, the local Pro Farms facility closed, with its management citing the “over-regulated and overtaxed” legal cannabis industry as justification for closing its Lakeport facility. Additionally, at the last Lake County Board of Supervisors meeting (April 19), the BOS, by a 4-0 vote (Pyska had an excused absence) as part of its consent program, voted to pass a resolution that temporarily reduced the county’s crop tax. rate of 50% and which also temporarily limits crop taxation to a canopy area, as measured by the Department of Community Development, which will be used as the taxable area for 2022 and 2023 rather than the current crop area.
The Breakfast event takes place every Thursday at 7 a.m. at the Senior Center in Clearlake and is open to the public, serving a full breakfast for $15, with all proceeds going to the Senior Center. A full schedule of upcoming meetings and guest speakers is available online on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JudgesBreakfast.