Calaveras Residents Against Commercial Marijuana File Lawsuit Against Calaveras County and its Board of Supervisors

Angels Camp, CA…Calaveras Residents Against Commercial Marijuana (CRACM), an unincorporated group of ordinary citizens residing in Calaveras County, announced it had retained legal counsel, noted environmental law firm, Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP to protect Calaveras County residents and visitors from the environmental damage that would result from the County’s recent adoption of an ordinance allowing and expanding marijuana cultivation. (Commercial and Non-commercial Cultivation Ordinance, Chptr 17.95, adopted 10/22/19 (“New Marijuana Ordinance”). The County’s approval reverses its prior ban on cultivation.

CRACM filed a lawsuit in Calaveras County Superior Court seeking, among other remedies, a writ of mandate to prevent implementation of the New Marijuana Ordinance. The lawsuit names Calaveras County and its Board of Supervisors as Defendants (collectively, “the County”).

CRACM’s lawsuit alleges the County’s actions in rushing to adopt the New Marijuana Ordinance violated California environmental law and regulations by unlawfully approving an Addendum to an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared for a previous unrelated and unadopted ordinance. That EIR failed to adequately disclose, analyze, or mitigate the New Marijuana Ordinance’s significant environmental impacts and the threats the New Marijuana Ordinance poses to Calaveras County, its residents and visitors.

“By approving the New Marijuana Ordinance without lawful environmental review, the County has opened its doors to a flood of marijuana cultivation and the disastrous environmental impacts that come with it,” said Amy Bricker at Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP, who represents CRACM. For example, marijuana cultivation at the scale permitted by the New Marijuana Ordinance increases the maximum allowable cultivation area per parcel from 22,000 sq. ft. to 43,560 sq. ft. § 17.95.050(D)(2), and would lead to significant environmental impacts including damage to sensitive plant and animal species and habitat from pesticide exposure, objectionable skunk-like odors flooding adjacent properties/neighbors’ houses, contamination of surface waters as chemicals wash off of marijuana grows, significant depletion of groundwater supplies, increases in traffic, and increases in crime associated with marijuana activities. In addition, the New Marijuana Ordinance limits well monitoring tests to the first five years after permit issuance and further, will allow significant declines in groundwater levels to occur year after year, even during the first five years.

In conjunction with the New Marijuana Ordinance the County adopted a series of related resolutions and approvals as part of its new marijuana program. For instance, it added an unbudgeted new department, a Division of Cannabis Control, Commercial Cannabis Cultivation Regulatory Fee, the Cannabis Background Badge Ordinance, and Cannabis Background Clearance Badge Fee requiring more staff and funding/budgeted allocation diversions.
Violations of the marijuana regulations, previously punishable as misdemeanors, are now punishable as infractions, providing less deterrent effect to those who would seek to violate the law § 17.95.160(F).

The County is markedly less safe because the Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s office have been removed from the background check process for growers and their seasonal workers.
CRACM asks the Superior Court to order that Defendants comply with California environmental and planning laws and regulations, and vacate and set aside defendants’ actions taken to date.

In summary, CRACM’s lawsuit arises from the Calaveras County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors having ignored the pleas of its department heads, business owners, pastors, parents, grandparents, physicians, and teachers to protect our beautiful pristine county and having forged ahead without regard to California environmental law and regulations and public safety of all who live here and those who come to visit, relatives/friends or spend their vacations here.

CRACM was left with no choice but to challenge the New Marijuana Ordinance and ask the Court to require that the County consider alternatives and adequately disclose, analyze, and mitigate the significant environmental impacts resulting from New Marijuana Ordinance. CRACM urges the County to properly evaluate the ordinance and to make an informed decision that reduces impacts to public safety from marijuana related crime, and preserves the quiet, peace, and rural beauty of the County and its natural landscape.

Calaveras Residents Against Commercial Marijuana (CRACM), an unincorporated group of ordinary citizens residing in Calaveras County, is best known for its 2016 successful effort to help defeat the well-funded marijuana growers’ attempt to permit marijuana (cannabis) to be commercially grown within Calaveras County (Measure D). And, in 2018, the group helped to successfully turn back the Angels Camp City Council’s attempt to allow a marijuana manufacturing, testing and distribution facility in Angels Camp.

2 Responses to "Calaveras Residents Against Commercial Marijuana File Lawsuit Against Calaveras County and its Board of Supervisors"

  1. Julio Guerra   December 11, 2019 11:31 am - at 11:31 am

    The “Ban” proponents dismissed the official, state-wide Cannabis EIR that classified outdoor cultivation as the, “Superior Environmental Option.” That document, together with the Calaveras County environmental review already conducted may suffice to answer the issues brought to the fore via the procedural delaying tactic which is this lawsuit.

    Every reputable environmental review or assessment of cannabis cultivation notes that having the authority to enact and require compliance with strict permit requirements is the best possible solution to this issue which 100 years of prohibition have done did little to control.

    Efforts to blindly prevent legal cultivation only strengthen the position of the black market and will ultimately contribute to more crime and environmental degradation. Commercial growers want to prevent illegal cultivation as much, perhaps even more so, than the rest of us do, and the permit process will provide financial support to address illegal projects.

    Anyway, as someone whose 35-year water quality career has endowed me with a portfolio that encompasses water in all its phases, from surface or groundwater, to treatment and distribution in public and private water systems, to collection, treatment and disposal of residential, commercial, and industrial wastewater, to ultimate agricultural reuse and/or disposal under state and federal permits, I can unequivocally state that a program to regulate commercial cannabis is preferable to encouraging the unregulated, wild-west, black market as will be the practical effect of this lawsuit.

  2. Alice N Montgomery   December 16, 2019 12:09 am - at 12:09 am

    Well, Julio, while your 35-year career seems commendable, your logic is quizzical. You assumptions (and you must know what is said about assuming) appear to be incorrect. Why would you assume a delaying tactic? From your comments, I must question whether you have bothered to read this regulation or its lack of requirements for permitting, the provisions for a new, unbudgeted department and Cannabis Czar, and the removal of the Background Checks process from our Sheriff’s Department, duplicating resources and making us all a lot less safe. Did you know about that? Did you know the entire thing was neutered? This regulation you call strict, allows growers to grow before getting any permit at all with bogus wink-and-nod authorizations such as “validations”, “special use permits” “conditional use permits” and more. Can you list any other Calaveras business allowed to open before obtaining all permits? Did you know denied growers can appeal behind closed doors to a handpicked hearing officer instead of in front of a panel of citizens? Did you know that the penalty for violating state marijuana laws has been diminished from a misdemeanor to merely an infraction. Does your 35 years of experience “unequivocally” recommend this downgrade when you know it removes all motivation to protect our environment? Calling this regulation strict is absurd. Your first sentence in your third paragraph shows you likely haven’t studied the data:
    A) The Black Market thrives when commercial cultivation is legalized.
    B) According to the Sheriff’s Dept., we have a sizable uptick in crime in Calaveras County during each and every harvest season whether the grows are “legal” or “illegal.”
    Pretty much each time you write, I see you sign off, give a statement or say something referring to your 35-year career. Here’s the thing about a 35-year career: You still have to tell the truth.