CA: Napa County Supervisors Poised To Allow Outdoor, Personal Use Cannabis Cultivation

Photo Credit: Jaime Saldarriaga

Residents in unincorporated Napa County – which includes several pockets surrounded by the city of Napa – should soon have the county’s permission to grow cannabis outdoors for personal use.

Proposition 64 passed by California voters in 2016 legalized recreational marijuana and gives state residents the right to grow six plants indoors. But it allows communities to decide if some or all of those six plants can be grown outdoors.

On June 19, the Napa County Board of Supervisors by unanimous vote said it intends to adopt a personal use outdoor cannabis cultivation law on July 10. Until that law takes effect, possibly on Aug. 9, a moratorium on outdoor grows will remain in place.

“We’re thrilled this day has arrived,” Anne Steinhauer, a consultant representing the Napa Valley Cannabis Association, told supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission have discussed the topic at several meetings over the past few months. The latest Board session amounted to putting the finishing touches on the proposed ordinance.

The proposed law would allow most rural residents to grow up to six plants in any combination of indoors and outdoors for their personal use. However, residents living within 300 feet of a school or park could grow only two plants outdoors.

Unincorporated Napa County has about 10,000 rural homes. The 300-foot-setback provision would apply to about 1,000 of these homes, a county report said.

People growing cannabis outdoors would have to have a locking fence or similar barrier. They could not grow the plants in their front yard or within 10 feet of a property line. Plants couldn’t be visible from the public right-of-way.

The county law doesn’t precisely match the city of Napa law. For example, the city law doesn’t have the 300-foot setback provision for schools, the county report said.

Supervisors noted that some parts of the unincorporated county are pockets or islands within city of Napa boundaries. A prominent example is the area along Pamela, Ethel Porter, Sandra and Janette drives south of Redwood Road, near Pueblo Vista Magnet School.

Dozens of homes in this unincorporated subdivision would be subject to 300-foot setback from Pueblo Vista school. Nearby homes within city boundaries are not.

“There’s going to be a lot of challenges when someone on one side of the street says, ‘Here’s my six plants,’ and the person on the other says, ‘Not me, what’s going on?’” Supervisor Diane Dillon said.

She and other supervisors asked the county to prepare information that will show residents the different rules for outdoor cannabis cultivation in the unincorporated county and local cities.

The next Proposition 64-related question is whether the Board of Supervisors will allow commercial cannabis cultivation in the unincorporated county. They will decide if wine country might also – to at least some extent – be cannabis country.

That’s a big interest for the Napa Valley Cannabis Association. Steinhauer said the group has approached the Napa County Farm Bureau and Napa Valley Vintners about a possible draft county law.

But any draft law proposed by the association will be meaningless without Board of Supervisors approval. Steinhauer asked supervisors for an idea of when the Board might address the issue.

“We would like to know in the next couple of months whether we should be preparing to plant next April, May, June,” she told supervisors.

Supervisors had no immediate answer on either a timetable or if they want to allow commercial grows. Commercial cultivation wasn’t on the agenda for them to discuss on June 19. They plan to take an initial stab at the topic in August or September.