Subscribe for 33¢ / day

Napa County supervisors are leaning toward making outdoor, personal marijuana cultivation legal in rural areas, but they want to look at the details.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday continued updating its marijuana laws for the unincorporated areas in light of Proposition 64. The 2016 voter-approved state measure legalized recreational marijuana for adults.

California allows adults to grow up to six marijuana plants indoors. It allows communities to decide whether to allow outdoor cultivation and commercial marijuana businesses, such as dispensaries and marijuana product manufacturing plants.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday wanted more time to craft a law permitting outdoor personal cultivation, perhaps for six plants. It should take up the issue again in a few weeks. The Board has jurisdiction over the unincorporated areas that are outside of cities.

On Tuesday night, the Napa City Council voted to allow up to six plants to be grown outdoors on residential lot.

“We need to be very careful and thoughtful about how we move forward,” Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza said.

But supervisors said they did want to move forward.

“Plants are meant to be outside and grown by sunshine,” Supervisor Ryan Gregory said. “They take up room in a house, there are lights, irrigation, things that don’t belong in a house.”

Board Chair Belia Ramos asked staff to come forward with a checklist of laws from other counties addressing such issues as setbacks and security for outdoor, personal cultivation. Supervisors could pick which features they like.

Supervisors foresee addressing the personal, outdoor cultivation issue first and then deciding whether to allow commercial, outdoor cultivation. They’ve already said they prefer to see marijuana businesses such as dispensaries inside cities and away from agricultural areas.

The Board passed an urgency ordinance that bans outdoor marijuana cultivation and marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas for 45 days. That gives it time to come up with permanent regulations.

During public comments, several people urged supervisors to follow up and ease marijuana laws restrictions for the unincorporated areas.

Get news headlines sent daily to your inbox

St. Helena resident Eric Sklar urged supervisors to convene a group with representatives from the wine industry, environmental community and other sectors to discuss rules for commercial, outdoor cultivation. Farmers could grow marijuana in areas of a quarter-acre to a half-acre and not affect grape growing, he said.

“It’s a crop just like grapes and should be allowed,” he said.

Erin Carlstrom spoke on behalf of the local law firm Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty. She said she leads the firm’s cannabis group.

“We hope that’s a little bit of an indication to you there may be more community acceptance for this industry than you may know,” Carlstrom said.

Napa resident James Hinton said outdoor cultivation helps assure people of access to healthy medicine, given some people use marijuana for medical reasons.

“Let people grow six plants at their residence in their backyard,” Hinton said. “People want to have sunshine-grown cannabis. It’s the best.”

Nobody at the meeting spoke out against allowing outdoor, personal cultivation. Californians passed Proposition 64 by a 57-percent-to-43 percent margin. Napa County voters favored it by a 61-percent-to-39 percent margin.


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