Marijuana and Its Effect on Ag
By John Azevedo, President
Published September 1, 2016
It’s that time of year again for many of us to start ramping up for harvest and working toward bringing in our crops. For many people it will be just another day as the cows will still need milking and eggs still need collecting from our chickens. But for those of us with grapes, apples, and other annual and perennial crops it’s that short period of time that all of the work we have done all year comes to a head, and we find whether mother-nature will let us be profitable or not. One of those crops will now be marijuana.
When California decided to legalize medical marijuana the state started down a path I think few people understood the implications of. Agriculture and neighbors of future marijuana grows are just starting to realize these things, as is government. I think the marijuana growers themselves had no idea what the implications could be. Now that California will be looking at a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, local government is scrambling to be prepared for what they anticipate as a wave of new grows and how they will be dealt with in the future.
Now in writing this, I need to say I don’t want to get lost in what we morally agree with or don’t agree with. I am neither supporting nor condoning marijuana but simply trying to be objective as I can as Farm Bureau fields requests from our Ag Commissioner to be at the table as the County crafts regulations for California’s cash crop. Please feel free to call or send your thoughts on what you think, but let me give you some food for thought.
First of all, once marijuana is labeled as an agricultural commodity, should it be protected by the Right to Farm policy we have in Sonoma? What zoning should commercial grows be allowed in for Sonoma County? How will the Ag Commissioner’s office be financially compensated for time spent dealing with marijuana vs. the other ag commodities? I ask this as I think the government has spent the tax revenues from marijuana 3-4 times over already. Should marijuana be allowed to be cultivated within site of a county road? Should the smells be labeled as a nuisance or should additional setbacks be required to protect neighbors? How should water use be monitored or regulated for a water intensive crop like marijuana?
These are all questions I have been asked the Farm Bureau position on. California Farm Bureau is just now drafting policy that will go into effect likely in December, so for right now we can only look to what counties like Mendocino and Humboldt have done for direction here in Sonoma. That said, I want to give you my opinion on the questions I asked in the previous paragraph so here we go. There are a lot of us that go back and reference the county’s position on the right to farm especially when in disputes with neighbors that are not in ag. That said, please think of how you reacted to many of the questions I asked in the last paragraph. I don’t think any of us think that having to be behind a fence so that we are not visible from a road or forced to farm in a way that produces less noise or smell can be practical. It is easy for us to be divided especially on crops some may morally object to but also remember that whatever regulation is enacted on marijuana can happen to you next and vice versa. This is not a simple matter and we need to be prepared to continue to be unified as one voice for all of agriculture.