Subscribe for 33¢ / day

A pair of buds on a Wild Thailand marijuana plant.

Napa County supervisors are moving cautiously as they decide whether to allow marijuana product manufacturing businesses and outdoor marijuana cultivation in rural areas.

The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday began updating the county marijuana law in light of Proposition 64. State voters last year approved the measure to legalize recreational marijuana.

Supervisors agreed that marijuana dispensaries should be in the cities, not the rural county. They see that as in keeping with the county’s agricultural preservation laws that already funnel most businesses to the cities.

They wanted additional information on outdoor commercial cultivation and manufacturing and postponed their conversation until Nov. 21. Their questions ranged from marijuana crop water use to soil depletion.

Access is a key issue for those who favored Proposition 64, Supervisor Ryan Gregory said.

That means the county should support local cities that allow dispensaries, Gregory said. But he doesn’t think having the Board take more time to look at outdoor commercial cultivation and manufacturing will hurt access. Santa Cruz County alone grows almost enough marijuana for the entire state, he said.

“I have no doubt our dispensaries will be stocked,” Gregory said. “No doubt.”

Gregory and Board Chairwoman Belia Ramos said they thought the county might move more quickly on allowing outdoor cultivation for personal adult use in unincorporated areas. Proposition 64 allows people to grow up to six plants indoors, with outdoor growth up to the communities.

“I’ve never liked the idea of shoving six plants into a house,” Gregory said. “We have an affordable housing problem. Those six plants with lights and irrigation taking up living space just doesn’t feel right.”

Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza, while not saying “no” to outdoor personal cultivation, called Gregory’s housing argument a “red herring.”

“If we have housing issues, we have housing issues,” Pedroza said. “But let’s not comingle cannabis and indoor grows.”

Gregory disagreed with Pedroza’s disagreement. Six indoor plants can take up an entire living room, he said.

“It’s just not right to shove six plants into a house when we need housing for people,” he said.

Still, Gregory saw difficulties that must be addressed with allowing outdoor, personal-use cultivation. For one thing, a few unincorporated, residential areas are surrounded by the city of Napa, which might choose to ban outdoor cultivation. That could mean different laws for what is basically the same neighborhood.

Get news headlines sent daily to your inbox

Ramos said she wants to look at setbacks, security, visibility and steps that should be taken when backyard marijuana plants are at homes with children.

Supervisor Diane Dillon said she doesn’t want to make a snap decision on even personal, outdoor cultivation. Maybe the county would want to allow two plants instead of six, she said.

“Act in haste and repent in leisure,” she said. “And the repenting is much harder to do when it’s an ordinance.”

Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht asked how commercial, outdoor cultivation might be handled. For example, he said, some county permits are attached to the land rather than to an individual who might sell the land.

“Who’s doing it and how they do it is maybe as important as where they do it,” Wagenknecht said. “I’m interested in seeing what we can do on that.”

Ramos said indoor, commercial marijuana cultivation might be feasible in the county’s airport industrial area. But she’s concerned about allowing it there, given the existing industrial demand for scarce warehouse space.

The existing county marijuana law applies to medical marijuana, which voters legalized in 1996. But Proposition 64, besides decriminalizing adult recreational marijuana use under state law and allowing people to grow up to six plants indoors, brings a new array of choices.

Beyond the Nov. 21 discussion, the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to do further work on an updated marijuana law at its Dec. 5 and Dec. 19 meetings.


Napa County Reporter

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