Hold the joint, because it would appear that Napa County wants to stick with wine. On Tuesday, its Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban agriculture, processing, and sale of marijuana within county lines.
Representatives of wineries had voiced concerns that legal marijuana in the area would unfairly benefit from the reputation for quality that has been established by Napa County vintners. Some fretted that cannabis fields would ruin the picturesque landscapes for which the area is known. Others saw a potential issue in the difference between pesticides employed by cannabis farmers, and worried that if marijuana farmers declined to use certain bug killers that wine crops could be adversely affected.
This is not the end of the road for marijuana in Napa, however. The ban is seen as a stop gap that will be in effect until the government has the chance to craft exhaustive cannabis regulations for the area.
Napa County has deliberated over the issue of how to regulate marijuana within its jurisdiction since 2018, when California passed Proposition 64 legalizing adult use cannabis. Despite forecasts that growing weed in the area could reap $760,000 to $1.52 million in yearly tax revenue and healthy debate that took place at a series of Board of Supervisors public outreach meetings, it appears that it has largely decided against joining the state’s cannabis industry.
David Morrison, the county’s Director of the Planning, Building and Environmental Services Department authored and presented the new ban, which will take effect on November 21, and extends a previous county prohibition on commercial marijuana activity that would have expired on December 4.
Tuesday’s ban will not apply to dispensaries located within city limits or marijuana delivery companies.
Is This The End of The Line For Napa Growers?
Advocates from the group Napa County Citizens for Responsible Green Cannabis Regulations had previously looked to put the issue up to the voters to decide, backing Measure J, which was originally set to be decided in next year’s March elections. The measure would have taxed and authorized cannabis cultivation on up to one acre on rural properties ten acres or larger, and mandated certain required distance for marijuana crops from schools and parks.
But in August, the coalition of cannabis advocates decided to switch tactics, looking to work on a marijuana-friendly ordinance with the Board of Supervisors and other groups involved. The decision to pursue the ordinance was made despite the fact that the Measure J team had accumulated enough signatures to get the issue on March ballots.
At times, the debate over marijuana in Napa County has seemed a bit divorced from reality. A report from HdL Companies and Goldfarb & Lipman, LLP commissioned by the Napa Board of Supervisors cautioned that smell from cannabis fields could set customers off their quaffs of pinot gris. “As a result, odor impact from nearby commercial cannabis operations could detract from both outdoor and indoor tasting areas at adjacent wineries,” the document concluded.
Not all cannabis farmers are in agreement with that assessment. A recent Napa Valley Register article followed a visit by Napa County Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht to Lake County farmer Eric Sklar’s marijuana fields.
“We’re about 2,000 feet from our garden. Smell anything?” asks Sklar. “No, I don’t,” Wagenknecht replied.