Voters may have the chance to provide input on El Dorado County's commercial cannabis industry this November.
At a candidate forum for El Dorado County District 5 supervisor on Wednesday, incumbent Sue Novasel said the county is in the process of formulating a series of ballot questions on cannabis.
"We want to go back to the voter and ask what about Prop. 64 do you want?" said Novasel. "Do you want taxation? … Should there be indoor or outdoor grows? Manufacturing? Prop. 64 was so generic we don't have a handle on what our voters were trying to tell us."
Novasel said she would not be in support of the industry without a tax measure generating funds for youth education and enforcement.
In El Dorado County, 49.7 percent voted in favor of Prop. 64. Across California, the measure passed with 57.1 percent of votes.
The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in December to approve a 45-day moratorium on cannabis businesses, excluding existing medical marijuana operations, to allow them additional time to craft an ordinance. They extended the ban in January for nearly two additional years (though it can be repealed before then).
Novasel said county staff is in the process of determining the best way to pose the questions to voters, and they will present the findings at a Board of Supervisors meeting in June. She anticipates there will be four to five questions.
The county would need to make a decision quickly. The questions must be submitted to the Elections Department by the end of June in order to make it on the November ballot.
At the same forum, the three candidates vying for Novasel's seat also voiced their views on commercial cannabis in the county.
Kenny Curtzwiler said he was "absolutely" in favor of getting the commercial cannabis industry off the ground in El Dorado County.
"We voted on this. I don't smoke marijuana, but I look at it as a taxable and a money maker. Nevada actually introduced that six months before it was legal [here] and they are way ahead of the curve of us," said Curtzwiler.
"Why don't we get it into place right now instead of having a moratorium on whether we're going to sell it or not and start collecting the taxes on this? I don't see a problem with it."
Jeffrey Spencer said there are too many "unsettled issues."
"Just to start, it's still a federal crime," said Spencer. "What's the demand on our system? Did you know that Colorado has reported — this is from Xcel Energy, their energy supplier — that in the last four years, 55 percent of the energy demand has been from growing operations? What about water? Water is the gold of California. It takes ½ to 1 gallon of water per plant for indoor cultivation."
Norma Santiago agreed.
"There are so many issue with it. It's not only the issues of water, environmental impacts — how are you going to measure those? Yes, there is some revenue generation, we've heard that from several jurisdictions, but there is also the health aspects of this," said Santiago. "What are you going to do when someone is pulled over because they are driving erratically and they are under the influence of marijuana? We don't have any of that information."
El Dorado County's cannabis moratorium expires on Dec. 12, 2019.