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.