As we all begin to understand and manage the “new” way of life through the COVID 19 pandemic we must all find ourselves extremely thankful that cannabis businesses were deemed essential businesses so operations could continue on. While the world is struggling with the pandemic there are critical issues facing the industry that we must all be aware of to ensure matters don’t slip through the cracks while focus and attention is elsewhere.
To begin, the industry was overwhelming successful and worked nonstop in lobbying efforts in an attempt to defer local cannabis tax payments through July at the Board of Supervisors level. This means that all third and fourth quarter tax payments are due by July 31, 2020 and if you do not pay the entire amount timely the deferred fees and penalties will be applied to your account. That being said – our mission is not complete. We still need to focus on a tax reduction to lower canopy taxes. Given the current economic climate this is going to be an uphill battle but with boots on the ground we must work together to present a unified message that shows the industry’s atmosphere and need for an overall reduction in taxes.
Also on the forefront for growers is the issue surrounding processing rooms and the requirements under the fire code. Of late, the County is requiring growers that do not have warehouses adequately equipped with fire sprinklers and the correct building occupancy to enter into Stipulated Agreements with the County. These agreements allow operators 1 year to get their drying area permitted, built, and up and running in compliance with both the building and fire codes. In the meantime, growers are permitted to dry in areas that consist of 10% of their greenhouse and must have a person on “fire watch” whenever anyone is in the drying space. There are various requirements needed to submit the initial application one of which includes a site map showing the exits and exit signs in the space, path of egress travel and the location of portable fire extinguishers.
Another matter coming up for cultivators is the odor requirements. The County Codes require that odor be addressed in both conditional use permit applications and business permit applications. As the codes read there are not explicit requirements that must be met or specific systems that must be implemented to deter odor from escaping the greenhouses but the County is starting to enforce some sort of implementations. All known systems to deter odor leaving the greenhouses used in other parts of the state are extremely expensive and are just another added cost for operators. Here, all greenhouses are located in the same vicinity and not areas that might experience odor would cause issues to the public so it is unclear the intent behind the requirements.
There is a lot going on for everyone. Stay focused, stay vigilant, stay healthy and safe. My best to you and your families.
Jennifer Rosenthal is a local cannabis and criminal defense attorney. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and does not reflect an official position of the Association.