Press "Enter" to skip to content

Supes Rescind Expansion Ordinance

At their Sept. 14 meeting, Supervisors Dan Gjerde, Ted Williams, Glenn McGourty, and Mo Mulheren, all of whom have steadfastly supported the Weed Expansion Ordinance, joined with Third District Supe John Haschack and rescinded it, thus negating the need for a referendum election.

They did the right thing, all of them were convinced the voters would have rejected their new Ordinance anyway.

Both Gjerde and Haschak essentially said the same thing on this turn of events: The voters are clearly saying they want “Small Is Beautiful” when it comes to a cultivation model in this County.

The “Small Is Beautiful” Referendum, of course, is the measure I supported but it did not qualify for the ballot most likely because of all the planned confusion caused by the sponsors of the other referendum that sought to strike down the entire Ordinance instead of just the 10% expansion provision as ours did. As the old saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Former Supe John McCowen had this to say about the Board’s decision to rescind the new cannabis ordinance: 

“Chapter 10A.17, the current (and still the only) cultivation ordinance was written entirely for the small legacy grower. It was limited to 10,000 square feet; only those who could show proof of prior local cultivation could apply; and to this day no one else is allowed to apply. Chapter 22.18, which provided for limited expansion for those who had an appropriate site and were able to comply with more stringent environmental, neighborhood and community protections, would have done nothing to harm the interest of legacy growers. In fact, it would have helped them by also allowing them the opportunity for modest expansion and an alternative path to State Annual Licenses. Ironically, legacy growers helped lead the charge to demonize cannabis cultivation and turn the general public against a functional ordinance. Yes, the BOS could and should have read the tea leaves in time to amend the ordinance to eliminate the 10% of parcel size provision prior to adoption, but if they reneged on their June 22 pledge to do so that could have been the subject of a subsequent ballot measure, as well as a recall. Now that the BOS has repealed 22.18, the likely result is that many current applicants will fail for economic reasons no matter if they are able to get a State License or not.”

There were some interesting responses to McCowen posted on the AVA website:

Rye N Flint: “RE: Now that the BOS has repealed 22.18, the likely result is that many current applicants will fail for economic reasons no matter if they are able to get a State License or not.” Always the positive shining hope for our locals, John? I will say this about legacy policies. The AG exempt permit was modified as an attempt to help small legacy farmers, and unfortunately it has been totally abused by non-permit holding cannabis farmers that have moved to outlaw Mendoland. The AG exempt permit needs to be modified back to the original code that excludes greenhouses from AG exempt status. I’m sure small legacy farmers were glad to have some help, but it seems like the code has been misused and driven the cannabis market into an overglut. Most like to refer to themselves as “Grey market” farmers, but they are basically gold miners, here for the getting, while the getting’s good. Well, the getting is only good for the ones willing to break the rules. The BOS needs to STOP incentivizing the hoophouse tumor on this land that is creating an unenforceable mess. Now the prices are the lowest on record, and many have given up and are going to move out of the county. Which could be good for some small farmers with low overhead. Let’s see who will survive and who will thrive. I’d put my money on the clone nurseries, if I could.”

Kirk Vodopals: “The ‘hoophouse tumor’ in Mendoland and beyond is most likely being enabled by design. The design being that the best, and most obvious solution to the cannabiz problem is to turn a winking blind eye to the problem and allow as many knuckle-headed ding dongs to produce as much as they can sardine into every single bulldozed ridgetop and steep slope as possible. Only a select few get their crop chopped down, whether that’s cuz they pissed off certain authorities or they didn’t grease the wheels of bureaucracy enough, but most just keep pumping out the product. Mother Nature loses, crime goes up, but, eventually the price drops consistently to a level where only the mega farms on or near major highways can operate with marginally profitable returns. We’ll see what the price is next year. Could be a big-baller year again somehow. Who knows?!”

I received this email from a friend who wrote:

“Hi Jim, Wow… Just ran into a friend, who shared with me a recent conversation (or visit) he had with a grower who has since moved his business to Salinas. Flat land. Easy access to highways. County easy to do business with. Near full automation. Seed to flower to package, the trim and smalls are extracted onsite. Two guys can run it. Fully burdened “cost” (labor, land, permits), less than $20/pound. Add County/State tax of roughly $150/pound. Plenty of margin in the tonnage this kind of setup can produce. Ya think the growers in our community are going into some rough waters? Granted, there’s likely a small niche for craft, but that’s likely no more than a couple dozen old folk.”

Essentially Weed Regulation is a bigger mess right now than ever. But this County started with a mess nearly five years ago by employing a process that guaranteed each succeeding proposed “improvement” only served to make the ever-changing Ordinance even more unworkable.

The fatal flaw from the very beginning was those responsible for crafting the ordinance didn’t know, understand or refused to acknowledge what a regulatory framework is. I believe that the current Board of Supervisors, in contrast to their predecessors, have a basic comprehension of regulatory frameworks but lack the political will to take the steps needed to create a workable Cannabis Ordinance.

I have worked under regulatory schemes my entire professional. First in the airline industry for several decades, and now for many years in the public water utility sector.

All regulatory frameworks share two, and only two foundational components:

1. A well defined, cohesive, integrated body of rules and regulations; and

2. The means by which to enforce the rules and regulations.

This County’s Weed Ordinance(s) has always been woefully deficient in both regards. Its rules and regs are a disconnected patchwork, while enforcement has been non-existent for all intents and purposes. As Supervisor Williams, to his credit, admitted recently that “we were looking the other way” when it came to enforcement.

Without enforcement you have a regulatory framework in name only, and human nature being what it is, most people (90% of growers in this County) will not comply with your rules.

And now we’re all living with all the consequences, intended or not: obscene over-production of weed, destruction of watersheds and water sources, hoop-blighted landscapes, artificial light making night bright as day, rumbling generators 24-7, real estate deals stretching the boundaries of legality, and the list goes on.

I agree with Ted Williams’ assessment that “Prop 64 is unworkable for Mendocino County … no amount of unicorns and butterflies and roundtable committee meetings will change this reality.”

So what’s the answer to ending this chaos?

I’ll pick up that thread next week.

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


  1. Gavin Walsh September 29, 2021

    I believe creating a micro farmer exemption would alleviate a burden on the people, as well as the county enforcement. With legacy or farmers reluctant to engage in a flawed system, and enforcement unable to enforce anything on thousands of small grows. An exemption from the requirements for environmental reviews, structure permits, onsite resources, water registry etc. Micro farmers would be able to grow the legacy crop of 25 plants in gardens that already exist, use minimal resources, create no new structures of changes, hire no employees, using the same area that they have already been using for decades. For a Fee these permits would bring these farmers into the fold, give legitimacy, allow enforcement, and provide a solution to many thousands of citizens of this county, neighbors of yours and mine, to live their way of life without persecution or prosecution.
    The county supervisors I believe recently stated that their were 8-9,000 county residents who are growing without a permit. Most are too small for enforcement to concern themselves with, considering their time and budget. You offer a permit to these people for their small operation for $1,000 and the county would instantly raise millions of dollars, and thats pre-tax. Include tax and goodbye county budget concerns. Besides many of these cultivators are getting a medical prescription and selling to the black market. Skirting the law and denying the county needed resources for important infrastructure and safety. Until we incorporate and enfranchise the majority, we will by default deny and demonize otherwise good people. Less than three percent are registered and they had the money. The rest don’t own land or can’t comply. Besides proof of prior cultivation.
    Education not incarceration.

    • Rye N Flint September 29, 2021

      I’m going to tell you from a very reliable source at the county, that the informal, and long standing, “Under 25 plants” rule still stands as a “Micro farmer exemption” from code enforcement. You could still get someone with a hair up their arse or a having a bad day, come and chop your 25 down like the good ol days, but the chances are pretty low at this point.

      An exemption still isn’t going to help locals transition away from long black market supply chains…

      “Most are too small for enforcement to concern themselves with, considering their time and budget.” I disagree with this statement. No one gets medical prescriptions anymore. Most “small farmers” have 10 light dep greenhouses, and are not what I consider friendly to the environment.

      • Rye N Flint September 29, 2021

        P.s.- Californians are agreed to count cannabis by canopy size, not plant counts anymore.

        • Marmon September 29, 2021

          Mendo should go back to plant counts, run the carpetbaggers out of the County on a rail, a coal rail.


          • Marmon September 29, 2021

            A plant count would would be devastating to hoophouse growers.


          • Marmon September 29, 2021

            I would say the same thing about grape growers, but good luck with that. The price of mendocino wines would go up, while the damage to our environment would go down.

            What is supply and demand example?

            There is a drought and very few strawberries are available. More people want strawberries than there are berries available. The price of strawberries increases dramatically. A huge wave of new, unskilled workers come to a city and all of the workers are willing to take jobs at low wages.


            • Marmon September 29, 2021

              Mendocino County needs to distinguish themselves from the rest of the state. The black market took care of the County for over 40 years. The west is the best.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *