In May of 2021 the County introduced an ordinance revision that would have greatly expanded cultivation throughout Sonoma County. The revision was accompanied by a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) which was challenged under California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements. As the MND was deemed inadequate to document and address the myriad potential impacts of increased cannabis cultivation, the County is now required to conduct a formal Environmental Impact Review (EIR). Get up to speed on CEQA and EIRs by reading our quick primer.
Writing the EIR and the subsequent ordinance revision is expected to be a multi-year process, which began summer of 2021. We've summarized the county's EIR process below and are following it closely. Sign up to receive our newsletter updates on key EIR milestones.
The EIR is an opportunity for the broader Sonoma County community to participate in the rewriting of the ordinance. This is an opportunity to provide input and ensure the future ordinance meets the needs of all stakeholders. Read our overview on how to get involved and make sure your opinion is heard.
This is a 3 year process led by the Sonoma County Cannabis Program. Below you'll find the detailed timeline through Summer 2024 when the updated Ordinance will be voted on by the Board of Supervisors. Throughout this process the there will be numerous opportunities for public input and comment. Below we have highlighted the main timelines for public participation and will be providing more details in our newsletters as key milestones are reached.
You can find more details on the process and many additional materials on the County's Cannabis Program Website.
Below we've highlighted the specific times over the next ~2.5 years when the public will be provided opportunities for input.
As part of the Environmental Impact Review for the revised Draft Ordinance the County will be required to study all the potential environmental impacts of wide-scale cannabis cultivation and operations in the county. The report will be required to evaluate all the cumulative impacts of the scale of cultivation envisioned in the proposed amended Ordinance -- this includes total potential water demand, impacts on key county resources such as police and fire, issues with air quality and traffic, etc. In evaluating the Draft Ordinance for these impacts, the EIR will be determine what - if any - mitigations are possible for the county to consider. This, in turn, will inform the key parameters of the future Ordinance such as permitted zones, setbacks, odor and noise protections, and water use limitations.
Critically, this is an opportunity to address many of the issues and controversies caused by the current ordinance, including many of the conflicts between rural communities and large scale commercial grows. However, there is no guarantee that this process will result in an outcome that's favorable to communities and neighbors, especially as the cannabis industry continues its own lobbying efforts. Only by continuing to have engaged citizens providing input and voicing concerns at provisions that do no provide for long term sustainable development can make sure the updated Ordinance balances the needs of all stakeholders.
There will be multiple opportunities to provide input and public comment on the Draft Ordinance and the EIR in the next ~2.5 years. However, there are numerous ways to get involved with this process outside of those discrete periods.
Citizens for a Sustainable Humboldt and Attorney Jason Holder have put together a great video: "CEQA Basics: A Primer for Effective Public Participation" which provides a terrific overview of best practices.
We've been following the month to month developments closely - you can catch up on the latest news and analysis here
Get up to speed on topics currently in consideration for the Draft Ordinance by reviewing the recently released Framework. We've drafted extensive commentary on the positive and negative aspects of the adopted Framework. You can find our most up to date coverage here.
Write a comment letter to the Cannabis Program and your Supervisor articulating what you'd like to see addressed in the updated Ordinance. Staff is currently writing the ordinance and taking public comment on an ongoing basis.
We have drafted a list of suggestions on changes we want to see in the ordinance.
Start discussions within your local community to understand your neighbors' views and preferences. As the ordinance shapes up, it's likely impacts on individual communities will become more apparent. It'll be important for communities to provide organized input on their needs.