While it's possible that Sonoma County's new land-use ordinance for cannabis growers will be modified, it's time to prepare for compliance with the new rules.
But first I suggest a step back. Do you want to stay in the industry? Do you have a handle on what it will take to get a license? Are you prepared for substantial market volatility over the next few years? What are your human and financial resources?
If you decide to stick it out, I recommend that you determine your zoning. Does your property qualify for a license? Do you have any obvious setback issues? Are you currently having any issues with county permits? Have you made any unpermitted improvements? What kinds of properties surround you? Have you considered the possibility of rezoning or acquiring neighboring land to meet minimum parcel size?
If you think your property may qualify for a growing license (you may need the assistance of an attorney or land-use expert to be sure), you now have a two-pronged, and simultaneous, approach to take. You need to get through 2017, and you need to prepare for licensing.
With regard to 2017, you need to make sure that you are in compliance with both land-use and criminal-law issues. Do you have a collective? Are you in compliance with the county's best management practices? Do you have someone to give you advice on what these mean and to do compliance checks if necessary? Who will deal with county regulators on your behalf?
As for 2018 and beyond, what kind of license are you going to apply for? Do you know all the prerequisites? Have you read the new land-use ordinance, and the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act?
I constantly remind people that the new system will be much more complex than the current one. Most commercial cannabis operations will require a conditional-use permit.
The point of this article is to shake people out of their complacency. Next year, everyone in the cannabis industry will need a county permit and state license. You need to start thinking about issues like taxation. Track and trace. Water engineers. Attorneys. Accountants. Security. Pesticides and many other issues.
Please do not wait until 2018 to begin thinking about how you will get the licenses and permits. Everything is changing, and it is time to figure out a game plan.
Ben Adams is a local attorney who concentrates his practice on cannabis compliance and defense.