Monday Morning Thoughts: Interesting Battle Brewing in Capay Valley over Cannabis

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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.”

Sound familiar?

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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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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26 Comments

  1. Chris Griffith

    The letter from the tribe never clarifies why they oppose the cannabis grows in Capay

     

    Over the years I’ve noticed an uptick of homeless people in Yolo county with that being said is there a correlation between marijuana use and schizophrenia or other mental issues?

    From what I understand there’s a large amount of tar in marijuana you think tar is harmful to the lungs?

     

    In my opinion I don’t think the tribe needs to clarify the obvious.

     

     

  2. Chris Griffith

    I wonder what the sheriff has to say about this particular subject how much of a criminal element do we have up there in the valley?

    How many illegal grow operations are on Indian land and how dangerous is it for those Indians to even walk on their own land without being shot?

    In my opinion it was very stupid for the board of supervisors to allow grow operations and Yolo county.

    The only thing these clowns looked at was money the revenue stream they were going to get and that was it.

     

  3. Chris Griffith

    What is the difference between an illegal grower and a legal grower?

    Answer is taxes.

    Of all these growers how many of them are criminals or gangsters or whatever you want to call them cartel for that matter or whatever label you want to put on these people.

    Of the tons of pot they grow how much of it is reported as income for tax purposes and how much of it goes out the back door does anybody know or does the board of supervisors even care or are they on someone’s payroll ?

    This is just one person’s humble opinion.

  4. Chris Griffith

    The board of supervisors should also check after they’ve made this ordinance to figure out what kind of a cesspool they’ve made up the valley.

  5. Alan Miller

    have always supported the tribe and remain a strong supporter of Indigenous Communities. 

    I remain a strong supporter of indigenous communities, and oppose casinos.  I’m sure those who have benefited from casino money, both native and non-native, oppose my opposition.  And spare me the argument that gambling money is some sloppy means of reparation.

    But there is a strong whiff of hypocrisy here.

    And the support today . . . not as much.

    This smells of big money vs. big money vs. beautiful valley.  Hard to take sides here (between the first two), so I’m going with dam breach.

    1. Richard_McCann

      And spare me the argument that gambling money is some sloppy means of reparation.

      Propose you’re alternative solution that generates $200M in revenues and commensurate employment for Native Americans. Your dismissive statement doesn’t make it your view accurate.

  6. Ron Oertel

    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?

    Alan P. addressed that, in his article.

    But there is a strong whiff of hypocrisy here.

    I’d agree, but perhaps not in the manner you’re suggesting.

    For example, isn’t the “sovereign nation” status used by tribes to bypass local regulations (and to pursue a monopoly on casinos) in the first place?

    So, why would anyone think that they should have much say outside of their sovereign nation?

    Unless one wants to acknowledge that they essentially have “dual citizenship” – which no one else has. The word “privilege” comes to mind.

    In any case, I’d pay more attention to the concerns expressed by the small farmers/residents in the valley who are “outside” the sovereign nation. The ones who don’t have the privilege of a monopoly/casino, which has changed the valley for the worse – by far.

    1. David Greenwald

      “I’d agree, but perhaps not in the manner you’re suggesting.”

      I was thinking more in terms of the fact that they basically have created the same conditions that the neighbors were complaining about, but your point is also spot on and appropriate here.

      1. Ron Oertel

        It could be that the neighbors welcome the help from a powerful tribe, regardless of their thoughts regarding the casino.

        The first thought that popped into my head is that the U.S. welcomed help from Russia during World War II.  And vice-versa, no doubt. 🙂

      2. Ron Oertel

        By the way, do you know if the tribe can grow marijuana on their own land, without any interference from the federal government?

        I assume that the state/local agencies would have no say.

        And, any other ramifications regarding that (e.g., taxes, etc.)?

    1. Alan Miller

      Having been part of professional conflict resolution on an all or nothing issue (something to do with the side of a track I believe) – if the parties are at opposite poles with high stakes, success is as likely as peace in the middle east.  (Note:  the mediation failed)

      1. Don Shor

        Having been part of professional conflict resolution on an all or nothing issue (something to do with the side of a track I believe) – if the parties are at opposite poles with high stakes, success is as likely as peace in the middle east. (Note: the mediation failed)

        I was involved in a professional conlict resolution process which began as an all or nothing issue, and the consultant was able to achieve acceptable results. I was chair of the committee that oversaw the process and had no personal stake in the outcome, so he and I worked together on it and I found the process fascinating. Obviously one of the key goals is to find an outcome that isn’t all or nothing. One point he made to me privately is that you can’t always get everyone to buy into the process and some will not be willing to see any acceptable outcome that isn’t their absolute starting position, but you continue to move forward if you possibly can.

  7. Lauren Ayers

    You quote the state director of the medical cannabis association— “local jobs are being supported and tax revenue is being generated“— while ignoring the local jobs and tax revenue generated the old fashioned way, from growing food.

    You go on, “By producing cannabis locally, we create a larger, more beneficial impact for all.” But you’re not living here. Either we Capay Valley residents have a say in what goes on in our immediate neighborhood or our quality of life is being taken without recourse. How would you like it if your kids had to breathe in the dead skunk smell of ripening pot for 2 months a year?

    “Alan Pryor, [chair of the Sierra Club Yolano group], argues that the overwhelming majority of owners of these cannabis farms are not Capay Valley residents.“ You’re saying that doesn’t matter? Wherever there are concentrated natural resources, be it oil, ore, or farmland to grow a very lucrative crop, the site becomes a sacrifice zone when investors rush in to get the highest return on their dollar with no concern for ‘side effects.’ 

    “As long as they adhere to regulations, their efforts are compatible with agricultural uses.“ The regulations do not reflect our frequently stated and reasonable requests. Like you folks in Davis, we enjoy seeing the stars in our night sky, we don’t like diesel generators running around the clock, and we don’t want our children intimidated by guard dogs and armed grow employees.

    Your indignation about the alleged hypocrisy of the Yocha Dehe tribe is misplaced. This is a land use issue. In Capay Valley, farmers, both tribal and later arrivals, grow food and flowers, but cannabis for medicine or recreation is more like a gold rush or fracking than farming.

    You disdain the tribe’s casino, golf club, olive mill and farming, but those are not in the stratosphere of the Get Rich from Pot influx here. You’re trying to use ‘logic’ to ignore reality: we don’t like what’s happening as a result of the cannabis grows and there are laws and regulations that the county staff have broken. And for what? The supervisors expected $3 million in tax revenue but only got $700,000.

    Contrast that to the $15 million in county tax revenue in 2019 from visitors.  https://www.dailydemocrat.com/2020/05/16/new-economic-report-highlights-importance-of-tourism-to-yolo-county/

    The Brown Act was flaunted (meetings held on private property and not announced properly), and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) was ignored. These may be inconvenient and time consuming but they are what protects a minority from the majority who just see dollar signs.

    I’ll bet your neighborhood doesn’t require “extensive video camera systems, alarms, motion detectors, security guards, shielded outdoor lighting, enhanced neighborhood patrols, and more.” We don’t like these changes and you aren’t listening to us.

    The chemicals used in commercial pot growing are often very toxic and Capay Valley is one of the state’s most concentrated areas for organic farming. Decades of work have made the soil capable of growing organic produce and livestock, it’s not fair to toss that away, and the way it’s being done is breaking laws meant to protect air, water, and property rights.

    1. Keith Olsen

      Excellent post, thank you for giving the local perspective.  Some people in Davis feel they know what’s good for everyone, but don’t dare tell them how to run their town.

    2. Alan Miller

      OK, that’s the first ‘real’ sounding post I’ve heard on the matter.  I very much support the organic farming industry in Capay Valley.  I did not know there were toxic chemicals used for this pot growing.  Can you cite any sources for that?  I’m not doubting, I want evidence/sources.  You may have noticed some of the tribe vs. growers claims outright conflict.  Also, is it possible pot farms would be OK (or more OK) in the Valley if only organic pot were permitted there? I had assumed it was organic, and apparently that was a bad assumption.

      Can you provide the location of one or more of these farms so we could go out and take a look?  Last time I was in the Valley, about 15 months ago, I didn’t notice anything different.  I would like to see for myself what these cannabis grows look like, day and night.

    3. Don Shor

      The chemicals used in commercial pot growing are often very toxic and Capay Valley is one of the state’s most concentrated areas for organic farming.

      Given the regulatory status of pesticide use on cannabis, this seems to be an assertion that cannabis growers are violating the law. Because no pesticides are legally labeled for cannabis with the EPA, growers either have to use materials that have an applicable general label, or materials that are exempt from registration and residue tolerance limits. The latter tend to be very safe materials.
      So in my opinion, the statement needs evidence or it just amounts to an unfounded allegation. Pesticide use is reported to the DPR and the county ag commissioner. So the suggestion that they are using ‘very toxic” pesticides is either provable or falsifiable.
      https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/county/cacltrs/penfltrs/penf2015/2015atch/attach1502.pdf

      the way it’s being done is breaking laws meant to protect air, water, and property rights.

      In that case, you have actionable complaints to file with the DPR.

      1. Richard_McCann

        One possibility is to identify Capay Valley as an organics only agricultural zones. However, the County Farm Bureau would have to weigh in on the feasibility of that solution.

        1. Ron Oertel

          One possibility is to identify Capay Valley as an organics only agricultural zones

          This seems like an excellent idea, and might also have a beneficial impact on marketing of those products.

          (Which I assume would not include organic marijuana.) 🙂

          If only that casino wasn’t there (drawing traffic, etc.), that valley could have been an even-better place to locate more “visitor-friendly” organic farms.

        2. Don Shor

          One possibility is to identify Capay Valley as an organics only agricultural zone.

          I would expect that conventional growers in the region would have good reasons to object to that. Also, there’s a common misconception that organic pesticides are safer or better than conventional ones. And I think that there is a serious misperception being put forth that conventional growers of cannabis are somehow a threat to the organic certification of nearby farms in the area. That can happen, of course, and there are simple legal remedies for that between neighboring farms. But I seen no reason to believe that cannabis growers overall are using pesticides illegally or in any manner that would be any more of an issue than, say, a commercial orchard or row crop farm.
          I’m really concerned about some of the rhetoric I’m seeing on this topic. I can agree there may be some serious near-neighbor issues developing around cannabis operations. Some of them could probably be mitigated by means of a serious conflict resolution process. The board of supervisors is being asked to pick sides. I don’t feel that’s necessary.

          Most people don’t know how many generators are used in ag. There are thousands of them in operation and while there are Air Resources Board standards for them I really don’t know how readily those are enforced. So long as PG&E is not reliable and farmers need to pump water from wells in an uninterrupted manner, there will be generators running. One of my neighbors ran a diesel generator to pump his water, typically running it around the clock for 10 – 12 day intervals out of every three weeks, starting in April most years and running through October. I’m sure it was legal. It smelled and sounded as though there was a truck idling in our driveway the whole time. I finally got him to move it elsewhere on the property.
          Cannabis operations need constant supply of electricity and the current utility can’t guarantee that. Because of their common growing media, they have a narrower margin of error with respect to irrigation. So like many farmers, they invest in generators in order to operate without interruption. And I understand it actually can be cheaper, at times, to use diesel generators than to try to work with the time-of-day rate structure the utility offers.
          Solar is an obvious answer. The question is who would fund the transition and how it could be incentivized.

        3. Ron Oertel

          Also, there’s a common misconception that organic pesticides are safer or better than conventional ones. 

          Aren’t you the guy who thinks Round-Up is “just dandy”?  🙂

          What does “Europe” think of it?

          In any case, what pesticides does organic farming use?

          I noticed that no one responded to my question regarding the ability of the “sovereign nation” to grow marijuana. I’m sure that’s a topic that can be explored further, but here’s a link to start with.

          https://www.500nations.com/California-Cannabis.asp#:~:text=Tribes%20can%20legally%20grow%20and,sell%20cannabis%20products%20off%2Dreservation.

          Cannabis operations need constant supply of electricity and the current utility can’t guarantee that.

          Sounds like a concern for the neighbors, regarding generators.

  8. Richard_McCann

    The ad in the Enterprise on Sunday proposed that cannabis be grown indoors. That’s a terrible, wasteful proposal that would increase our greenhouse gas emissions. Let’s not go there.

    1. Bill Marshall

      That’s a terrible, wasteful proposal that would increase our greenhouse gas emissions.

      OK… biology and botany are within my ken, but not my expertise… why is that?  Artificial light vs. ‘natural’?  What if the light source is solar-powered?

  9. Harry_Balzonya

    Casino owners know that gambling and cannabis consumption don’t go together.   Does anyone else see the irony in a gambling institution that serves alcohol stating that growing a plant is bad for a community???

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