by David M. Greenwald
On Tuesday, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors will make policy decisions on the passage of a Cannabis Land Use Ordinance, but residents of the Capay Valley, including the tribe, are attempting to push the Board to create a cannabis exclusion zone in the Capay Valley.
A letter from Anthony Roberts requests: “[W]e ask the Board to grant the Tribe’s and our neighbors’ request to protect the Capay Valley region, and in particular, to carve cannabis grows out of the rural residential communities west of Interstate-505 along State Route 16, which are simply not suitable to cannabis cultivation.”
They are asking “the County to protect the greater Capay Valley, the rural communities from Madison to Rumsey along Highway 16.”
The issues raised by the tribe and the residents strike me as a bit odd.
The cannabis growers have pushed back.
In a letter from Richard Miller, State Director of American Alliance Medical Cannabis, he points out: “Legal Cannabis supports the Yolo County community. When cannabis is purchased from our legally licensed businesses, local jobs are being supported and tax revenue is being generated, which in turn, gets reinvested in our community. By producing cannabis locally, we create a larger, more beneficial impact for all.”
Alan Pryor, in a commentary today, argues that the overwhelming majority of owners of these cannabis farms are not Capay Valley residents.
But why does that matter? As long as they adhere to regulations, their efforts are compatible with agricultural uses.
As Miller points out: “Cannabis crops use less water than orchards, including those that exist in the same valley and especially less than a 150-acre golf course that produces no agricultural goods, just green grass. Cannabis cultivation operations do not put in large leach fields that could possibly contaminate neighboring crops. We do not have or create traffic issues since most farms are small one-acre operations.”
However, a group of residents living in the rural communities along Highway 16 west of the 505 in Yolo County, with many living and farming in and around Madison, Esparto, Capay, Brooks, Guinda and/or Rumsey, they see “the greater Capay Valley quickly became overwhelmed with cannabis grows.”
They argue… “We must preserve the character and culture of this place for generations to come, and we must be vigilant about how our actions will impact future generations. This region is simply not suitable for cannabis grows, which has a history of drawing miscreants and generating crime, and exploiting already limited resources—including the precious and increasingly scarce water needed to grow food.”
Richard Miller argues, “Saying that cannabis is creating crime, is not an agricultural product, wastes water, and makes money off the backs of residents echoes the same sort of complaints that were once targeted at a certain Casino, Golf Course, and Hotel Resort.”
That is, in fact, one of the big problems here.
One of the leading voices supporting the exclusion area is the tribe. I have always supported the tribe and remain a strong supporter of Indigenous Communities. But there is a strong whiff of hypocrisy here.
If one believes that the biggest threat to the Capay Valley is crime, traffic, and urban encroachment, why do cannabis grows—which are by definition an agricultural use—represent a bigger threat than a Casino and Hotel that continue to expand and draw huge amounts of traffic and accompanying crime?
As Miller points out: “Legal Cannabis actually makes for a safer neighborhood. It has been said that cannabis businesses are creating an increase in local crimes and violence. In fact, the exact opposite is happening. Legal cannabis operations are actually very secure, especially with state regulations and proposed staff recommendations that are creating an abundance of security protocols for protecting product but also neighbors, customers, and company personnel.”
Further, “Currently, county staff are proposing additional security measures and standards to add into the comprehensive Cannabis Land Use Ordinance for even greater health and safety controls. Cannabis businesses have, themselves, already contributed to increasing a whole range of operational safeguards such as extensive video camera systems, alarms, motion detectors, security guards, shielded outdoor lighting, enhanced neighborhood patrols, and more. As a result, these businesses have been able to call local law enforcement and report suspicious characters, drug use, fires, theft on neighboring properties, and suspected illegal operations.”
Miller points out that, instead, “a group in the Capay Valley has stated that these upstanding businesses have been contributing to crime, when in actuality, the records show that said group is the one receiving the most calls for service in the county space, thereby creating the most demand on the Sheriff’s Department as seen over the last several years. This detailed data on crime in the Capay Valley can be received upon public request from the county.”
The overwhelming majority of voters supported legal cannabis when this matter came to a vote in 2016. To do so and allow the county to benefit from the influx of tax revenue means we should be growing our product locally rather than exporting it from elsewhere.
Given this is an agricultural county with huge land resources that can be dedicated for this and many other crops, it makes no sense to exclude one industry from the Capay Valley, when we already have seen the Casino and Hotel built there.
The issues raised by the residents are not new—and they may not be all that accurate. A bigger question might be to understand why the tribe is stirring all of this up. The letter from the tribe never clarifies why they oppose the cannabis grows in Capay.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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