Santa Rosa, CA – September 22, 2021 – The County of Sonoma Board of Supervisors today adopted a 45-day interim urgency ordinance prohibiting ministerial permits for multi-tenant commercial cannabis cultivation in unincorporated Sonoma County. Previously, separate ministerial zoning permits could be issued to different applicants co-locating on the same property as long as they were not members of the same family or connected to the same business. The updated provision is based on concern that some applicants were taking advantage of a loophole in the provision that allowed cultivators to get around the limits on grows of more than 10,000 square feet by acquiring permits for adjacent smaller plots.
The County has found that current ministerial standards are not effective at distinguishing and ensuring the kind of multi-tenant operations that the Board of Supervisors intended to allow when the Board reduced barriers to the legal market for small community-based farmers.
“There is understandable concern and frustration among local farmers who are trying to do the right thing and are simply caught up in administrative delays,” said Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, Chair of the Board of Supervisors. “At the same time, there are instances of multi-tenant applicants applying for ministerial permits together on three or four contiguous parcels when a grow of the same size would require a conditional use permit if proposed by one applicant, including appropriate environmental review and public input.”
The moratorium on ministerial permits for multi-tenant commercial cannabis cultivation is designed to allow time for staff to review issued permits and upcoming renewals, and develop recommendations for a standard of review based on the size, location and nature of the cultivation, rather than the relationship between the applicants. There are currently 85 ministerial zoning permits issued for 20 different multi-tenant cultivation sites, and 61 ministerial cultivation applications in process. Ministerial permits are not reviewed under the California Environmental Quality Act and do not provide for public comment or administrative appeal.
All multi-tenant permits set to expire during the 45-day moratorium will be extended. New applicants seeking to co-locate separate commercial operations on a single parcel will need to apply for a conditional use permit, consistent with requirements for a single applicant for the same parcel size and cultivation area. Ministerial permits may still be issued to applicants proposing a single cultivation operation on one parcel.
In accordance with state law, the Board of Supervisors can extend the 45-day interim ordinance for up to 22 months and 15 days. Policy recommendations for multi-tenant commercial cannabis permitting are expected to be presented to the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 26, 2021.
For more information about the interim urgency ordinance prohibiting ministerial permits for multi-tenant commercial cannabis cultivation, or for general questions regarding the Sonoma County Cannabis Program, please call (707) 565-2431, email Cannabis@Sonoma-County.org or visit https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/cannabis-program/.
575 Administration Drive, Suite 104A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403