County seeks public input on cannabis ordinance update

Posted on April 17, 2024 by Sonoma Sun

A 30-day public review and comment period on a proposed update to Sonoma County’s cannabis ordinance begins today. County officials are seeking feedback on proposed policy changes that emphasize neighborhood compatibility and environmental stewardship before the project moves forward to the environmental impact report process. See the update on this story below.

The proposed ordinance would allow most cannabis operations to be permitted by right, and not subject to review, in areas zoned as industrial and commercial; eliminate term limits and permit renewals; apply land-use regulations uniformly to medical and adult-use cannabis; adjust setback requirements that protect concentrated residential development; and allow on-site retail consumption, subject to relevant health ordinances.

The revised policy would also designate cannabis cultivation as “controlled agriculture,” which is considered a primary use on agricultural lands. The current ordinance considers cultivation to be secondary and incidental to traditional agricultural use. The revision would allow most policies related to agriculture to also apply to cannabis, as well as allow for regulations to protect public health and safety. While cultivation uses on agricultural lands would be subject to discretionary review, much of the environmental review requirements would be addressed by a programmatic environmental impact report, which will help streamline permit processing.

“This update reflects Sonoma County’s commitment to supporting the local cannabis industry while prioritizing community well-being and environmental protections,” said Tennis Wick, director of Permit Sonoma. “By aligning our regulations with industry standards and neighborhood needs, we’re laying the groundwork for a more innovative, equitable, and prosperous future.”

In comments to The Sun, grower and dispensary owner Erich Pearson notes: “I recommend the removal of the cannabis cultivation tax. The State eliminated their cultivation tax well over a year ago, and the County should follow suit. It is a well-known fact that the legal cannabis industry is struggling to survive the over-taxation by the governments that permit its existence.  The type of taxation we are discussing today leads to higher prices of cannabis at legal dispensaries. It is near impossible for these businesses to compete with the illicit market. In fact, 15% of all licensed dispensaries are currently in default on their State taxes, and will soon lose their license to operate. The regulated system is failing, and it is these taxes that are the reason.”

Written comments may be submitted to [email protected] or sent by mail to Permit Sonoma, Attn: Cannabis Ordinance Update, 2550 Ventura Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95403.

For more information and updates on Sonoma County’s cannabis ordinance update, visit

UPDATE (April 19): Following the action of the supervisors, most cannabis business tax rates will be reduced from previous rates, except for retail (dispensary) operations, which will increase from 2 percent to 3 percent. The tax rate for cannabis manufacturing operations will be lowered from 3 percent to 1.5 percent. Outdoor cultivation will be taxed at 69 cents per square foot, down from 75 cents per square foot; mixed-light cultivation will be taxed at $2.51 per square foot, down from $3 per square foot; and indoor cultivation will be taxed at $7.58 per square foot down from $12.50 per square foot.

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