A smoky farmer’s market model for Yolo County
By ERIN TRACY
From the Daily Democrat
The sale and distribution of medical marijuana in unincorporated Yolo
County is an issue never formally addressed by the Board of Supervisors,
but the subject is gaining popularity.
“We are rural; the trendy stuff that hits San Francisco and L.A. will
eventually trickle to Yolo County, it’s just a matter of time,” said
Yolo County Council Robyn Drivon.
During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s board meeting, President
of North Country Comfort Club Joseph Funes presented his idea to start a
‘patient-to-patient cannabis farmer’s markets’ in Sacramento and
surrounding counties such as Yolo.
Funes said the farmer’s market model will help to keep the money in the
community by employing only local growers, and an alliance with the
county could foster thousands of dollars in sales tax revenue.
The California Board of Equalization estimates medical marijuana outlets
generate between $58 million and $105 million in annual sales tax.
The City of Oakland has been raking in six figures a year from the
city’s four dispensaries since passing an ordinance in 2004.
A 9.5 percent sales tax and a gross receipts tax that increased 15 fold
in January, has generated $187,000 and $400,000, respectively, over the
last four quarters.
Thus far, Yolo County has not taken a stance on the issue, only
referring to business license code that states no license shall be
granted for a business prohibited by law.
Zoning code remains silent with respect to dispensaries, but nobody has
requested that the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors make an
interpretation or amend zoning code, according to Planning and Public
Works Assistant Director David Morrison. An interpretation would require
a brief application and a $1,000 fee, however, requesting a zoning code
amendment would be a much more lengthy and costly process.
California passed proposition 215 in 1996 allowing the cultivation of
marijuana for medical use, but the federal government does not recognize
Despite an official memorandum from Attorney General Eric Holder stating
the federal government would no longer prosecute medical marijuana cases
proven to be in compliance with state law, Drivon said there is still a
“supremacy disorder” with the competing state and federal laws.
Supervisor Matt Rexroad, agreed adding, “It’s all kind of moot because
federal law needs to change … we are clearly inconsistent as a
However, Drivon said public interest spurs policy-making, and if the
issue persists in Yolo County, the board would likely vote on whether or
not to move forward with drafting an ordinance.
County Public Information Officer Beth Gabor said just a year ago, talk
of medical marijuana for rural Yolo county was virtually nonexistent,
but she now fields a few phone calls a month on the subject.
The issue is far more popular within the incorporated areas, where all
four city councils have either voted for an all out ban on dispensaries
or instituted a moratorium.
Davis took the lead in 2005, prohibiting the establishment of
dispensaries in all zoning districts. After a more than yearlong
moratorium in Woodland, the city council also banned the retail sale of
Winters and West Sacramento are still riding out moratoriums. Winters
will likely follow suit with Davis and Woodland when its moratorium
expires in September, but West Sacramento came very close to handing
over the key to the county’s first cannabis club.
City staff prepared a draft ordinance with some stringent regulations
opposed by marijuana advocates and lawyers. West Sac’s proposed
ordinance capped the number of dispensaries at two, and limited
clientele to residents either within city or county limits.
The ordinance would have also required medical marijuana users to obtain
state I.D. cards, the first such mandate in the state, according to City
Planner Steve Rikala. Established under Senate Bill 420, the cards,
administered by county health departments, are intended to assist law
enforcement in identifying 215 patients and caregivers, but advocates
argued mandating the voluntary program would be unconstitutional.
Furthermore, Deputy Director of Public Health Cheryl Boney said while
the department receives roughly 15 calls a week for I.D. card
applications, there are only 12 active cards in the entire county.
Rikala said the council ultimately voted down the ordinance and extend
the moratorium to February, avoiding the treat of litigation.
“Why provide an ordinance if we are going to turn around and get sued?
We didn’t want to be a test case,” Rikala said.
There are legal issues on all sides of the gamut, which is one of the
reasons Funes is hesitant to expand North Country Comfort Club without
the support of county supervisors. His current operation in North
Highlands serves 500 patients through the efforts of six volunteers.
Funes’ goal is to expand operations to bordering counties like Yolo and
accommodate at least 5,000 medical marijuana recipients. Any revenue
generated will then be used to provide free classes to the community in
subjects ranging from nutrition and job hunting, to stress management
and finances, he said.
Funes said he is already giving away free cannabis to those who can’t
afford it, and worries that he will not be able to operate at this pace
in the foreseeable future without some sort of agreement with the
“We are growing a lot of new members and they want the club here …
Just give me the OK and I will do the rest,” Funes said.