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Napa County supervisors extended a moratorium on commercial cannabis activity in the unincorporated areas through 2019, though not without taking some heat over what cannabis supporters perceived as fear-mongering.

The Board of Supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting passed the moratorium ordinance. The move gives supervisors more time to decide if the unincorporated county should allow commercial cannabis grows and a dispensary and, if so, to craft regulations.

Anne Steinhauer of the Napa Valley Cannabis Association didn’t like the tone of the ordinance.

“It is full of fear-based tactics, misinformation and misdirection,” Steinhauer said. “It absolutely does not in any way represent the legal cannabis industry today.”

The ordinance says that, without sufficient regulations, commercial cannabis activity poses a threat to public health, safety and welfare. One danger is increased crime because dried, processed cannabis is worth $1,400 to $1,700 a pound.

“The strong odor of cannabis creates an attractive nuisance, alerting persons to the location of valuable plants and increasing the risk of burglary, armed robbery or other violent crimes,” the ordinance says.

Increased emergency room visits can result from minors accidentally ingesting cannabis. Calls to poison control centers doubled following the start of commercial cannabis sales in Colorado in 2014, the ordinance says.

Cannabis use by adolescents in Napa County is already higher than the state average. Drugged driving rose in Washington and Colorado after cannabis legalization in those states. The federal government lists cannabis under a classification at risk for severe psychological and/or physical dependence, the ordinance says.

The Napa Valley Cannabis Association objected to the ordinance, not because of the moratorium, but because of such claims.

“We encourage you to remove the incendiary language,” Steinhauer told supervisors.

In one area that has legalized cannabis, a taxed and regulated industry contributes a net of more than $35 million to the local economy, Steinhauer said. She disputed the idea that legalized cannabis leads to increased youth use.

Deputy County Counsel John Myers said the ordinance describes what could happen with unregulated cannabis activity, not regulated activity.

“Those reasons are a basis of why we need a moratorium to begin with,” he said.

The county needs the moratorium to maintain the status quo while it works on regulations of its own. Otherwise, commercial cannabis activity here would be at the whim of the state, he said.

Supervisors kept the language in the ordinance.

“It comes across as biased and I get that’s how it’s viewed,” Supervisor Ryan Gregory said. “When this comes back, I want a really healthy objective review by this Board of what we want to do in the future. I’m committed to that, despite what this says.”

Eric Sklar of the Napa Valley Cannabis Association said the way to reduce crime associated with cannabis is to make cannabis legal in all of its aspects. He urged supervisors to have regulations for commercial cannabis cultivation in place by June.

“It’s a dereliction of duty not to do that,” he told supervisors.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.