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Clearlake continues rollout of medical marijuana cultivation permit program

CLEARLAKE, Calif. – The city of Clearlake continues to work through the early stages of its new marijuana cultivation permitting process, enacted earlier this year.

The Clearlake City Council passed a new city marijuana cultivation ordinance in February that was based on the work of an ad hoc committee that included council members, business people and a dispensary owners, as Lake County News has reported.

In addition to banning commercial cultivation, the ordinance requires a city-issued permit in order to legally cultivate marijuana.

The permits are good from May through April of each year, the city reported.

The period for applying for the permits ended May 1, but City Manager Greg Folsom said that, because May 1 was a Sunday, they continued to accept applications through the end of the day Monday, May 2.

The permits require an annual $150 registration that city officials said will help offset the city’s cost to administer the program.

Altogether the city issued 47 of the permits, for total revenue of $7,050, Folsom said.

That’s far less than the city’s administration originally had anticipated. At one point this spring Folsom estimated that if they issued 500 permits, they could take in about $75,000, which would have helped to fund code enforcement operations and staff.

“That was the potential,” said Folsom, explaining that number was based on the number of grows in the city at the time. “We were hopeful that it will grow to be something like that.”

In the final fiscal year 2016-17 budget the council accepted in June, Finance Director Chris Becnel included $15,000 in permit revenue from the new ordinance.

“The start-up of this permitting has been somewhat slower than anticipated,” Becnel’s budget narrative said.

As for why he thinks why more permits weren’t sought and issued, Folsom said, “I think it’s a combination of things.”

For one, he said that the permits all seemed to come in at the last minute, indicating a lot of people may still not know about the new ordinance or its requirements.

“We want people to comply,” Folsom said. “We weren’t trying to catch people.”

He said city code enforcement staff currently are working closely with the Clearlake Police Department on the larger, non-permitted, commercial grows and are expected to transition into compliance checks on the existing permits soon.

Clearlake Police Lt. Tim Celli told Lake County News that his agency doesn’t oversee the permit process, and is separately pursuing its work to seek out illegal commercial grows.

The department has announced the eradication of numerous large grows in the city over the last few months.

Celli and his staff reported to the council in May that so far this year they do not have any homicides associated with marijuana, unlike the situation in 2015, in which there were six homicides that had that connection.

For more information regarding the city’s medical marijuana cultivation ordinance, visit the city’s Web site at www.clearlake.ca.us .

Email Elizabeth Larson at elarson@lakeconews.com . Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.

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