Max Simon, CEO of Ventura’s Green Flower, shares his thoughts on cannabis.
Ventura County Star
Backers are circulating a petition to put a measure on the November ballot allowing limited indoor commercial production of marijuana in unincorporated areas of Ventura County.
The petition containing 30,912 valid signatures must be turned in by May 15 to be placed on the ballot, county elections officials said.
Passage would require a simple majority from voters countywide although the areas where production would be allowed lie in agricultural and certain industrial zones in the unincorporated territory. Growers could produce the cannabis for both medical and recreational adult use.
Spokeswoman Jeanette Lombardo said polling indicates voters will support what’s being called the Ventura County Pilot Cannabis Cultivation Program.
“I think it’s time,” Lombardo said this week.
Commercial production of marijuana in the unincorporated area has repeatedly been rebuffed by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, but the initiative would allow voters to make the decision.
If approved, the initiative would allow up to 500 acres of plants to be cultivated in existing permanent greenhouses or other indoor facilities in the unincorporated area. No planting would be allowed outdoors or in hoop houses, the tent-like plastic structures used to cover raspberries.
Another 100 acres of nursery cultivation would be allowed in the same type of facilities for propagation of seedlings. The seedlings would have to be non-flowering and cannot emit odors, according to the text of the initiative.
The acreage figures are totals countywide, not for each greenhouse, Lombardo said.
Also permitted would be commercial processing and distribution of the products. No sales will be made to the general public from the facilities, Lombardo said.
A political committee called Ventura County Citizens for Responsible Cannabis — which is generally composed of owners of glass greenhouses — is sponsoring the initiative.
Lombardo said the main purpose of the pilot project is to help the county’s struggling agricultural industry.
“We need new crops that will actually break even financially,” she said, adding that the cost of production make it difficult for local growers to compete with farmers in other states let alone other countries.
“We are looking for crop conversion to save jobs and have assets that are not stranded,” said the Oxnard resident and longtime advocate for growers. “That initially is the main purpose.”
Organizers are pitching the initiative to the voters as a way to create high-wage jobs, generate local tax revenue for public services, encourage sustainable farming practices and provide a regulatory path to end the underground cannabis industry.
Growers would pay a tax to the county amounting to 4% of gross receipts on sales. Nursery owners would pay 1% of gross receipts on the sale of the seedlings.
Agricultural Commissioner Ed Williams said he had not reviewed the initiative yet, but that odor from marijuana plants has been an issue elsewhere even when the crop is grown indoors.
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Lombardo said counties that had issues were growing the plants outdoors, in hoop houses or in nurseries that are not state of the art.
Mitigation measures would be set in place from the start to control odors, she said. Additionally, the facilities must be located outside a 1,200-foot radius of schools, day care centers, youth centers, drug rehabilitation facilities, parks and residential neighborhoods that existed as of March 4.
Neighbors’ complaints about odor have undermined efforts to grow hemp in Ventura County, which emits a skunk-like smell at times. Lombardo said she does not expect similar problems with marijuana because of the restrictions in the measure.
The top administrative office in the Ventura County government would be charged with administering a business license program for the operations. Fees may be established by the Board of Supervisors to cover the cost of running the licensing program.
Owners and employees must undergo criminal background checks, according to the initiative. The businesses also must obtain state licenses and submit plans for energy conservation, site security and odor control.
Kathleen Wilson covers the Ventura County government, including the county health system, politics and social services. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-437-0271.
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