According to Mendocino County officials, the county’s new agricultural commissioner Joe Moreo resigned on March 5 after only five days on the job.
While Moreo had previously worked as agricultural commissioner for Modoc County, officials stated he exited after finding out the position was not what he anticipated when he took the job. Reports indicate that he thought he was going to be more in charge of implementing the county’s cannabis programs.
Meanwhile, county cannabis program director Kelly Overton had been on the job for a week (after being hired officially Feb. 28) when he presented the Board of Supervisors an overview of the cannabis program Tuesday.
Overton said the county has received 847 applications for cannabis cultivation; 148 of the 847 applications (17.5 percent) have come to a conclusion, 87 permits have been issued and 25 have been approved.
“The majority of these, this has happened in the last few days,” he said. “We’ve approved permits, we’ve sent the email, contacted the applicants and let them know they can come in. So these are basically pending issue.”
He added 18 applications were withdrawn mostly due to monetary concerns or in relation to the fires; 18 were denied leaving 699 (82.5 percent) without a decision. The county still has a backlog of 700 cultivation permits to work through.
Overton added that currently 100 permits have been issued or approved for different types including large mixed light, and large outdoor permits.
He said the 700 permit applications pending mirror what came in the first 90 days.
“The first 90 days we accepted applications we received 656 permits. If we go back to the 148 cleared that tells us that a lot of people have been waiting a long time to get some information and to move forward.”
“The good news is, at least for now there’s some ebbs and flows, 68 applications have come in the past 75 days. We have developed a fairly simple system where we can expedite going throughout the permitting. This is not going to harm anyone in any way.”
He compared it to the post office where if someone is in line and wants to send a fragile package with food overseas and 10 people are waiting in line behind them to buy stamps, people are going to be moved to the side where they will still get the attention they need.
“As far as the complicated process,” he said, “the people ready and waiting will be able to be expedited.”
Overton explained the department’s current process.
“What we’ve done the past two weeks is we’ve spoken and listened to people. In an effort to identify and continue to respond to some of the community’s concerns, staff has continued to meet with local stakeholders including growers, law enforcement, consultants, state agencies, activists. There’s a lot of things we could do better.
“We heard two things over and over and that’s what we are going to focus on. We were consistently encouraged to improve our processing and permit applications and communicating with individuals groups and the community as a whole.”
According to a mid-year report prepared by CEO Carmel Angelo and county staff, the county’s current budget includes revenue based on the projection that Mendocino County will receive 600 permit applications in the fiscal year. This includes application and permit fees specific to the cannabis program in agriculture, planning and building services and environmental health.
Following board adoption, fee reductions for cottage level permits were implemented in the first quarter of the fiscal year, which reduced revenues by approximately $115,000. In addition, there have been delays in issuing permits, resulting in lower than expected cannabis permit fee revenues.
Cannabis revenues from applications and permits are projected to be 45 percent below budget, reducing revenues from the estimated $1.1 million to $620,863, the report noted.