Sonoma County cannabis growers and their allies gathered by the dozens Friday outside the Board of Supervisors’ office in Santa Rosa to denounce the county’s handling of commercial cannabis regulation and taxation, calling it overly burdensome and costly.
Taxes levied by the county are excessive, growers say, and a slow, convoluted local permitting process has hampered the expansion of their industry since California voters legalized adult-use recreational cannabis in 2016. Growers have bristled at pushback from residents who do not want cannabis farms nearby and are calling on county officials to loosen regulations and allow more commercial cannabis operations across a wider span of territory outside cities.
Without major changes, growers will be chased off or forced back into the black market, they say. “They’re overburdening us with unachievable regulations,” said David Drips, a co-owner of cannabis farm Petaluma Hill Farms and co-organizer of Friday’s protest, which drew about 80 people.
Tensions have mounted between farmers and neighbors over safety, water use and other impacts on neighborhoods. The county has agreed to study those impacts in an lengthy environmental report advanced by supervisors in May and likely to take at least a year to complete. In the meantime, cannabis growers continue to seek and secure approval to open new farms, although not at a pace they’d prefer.
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