Cannabis Updates

1.   Revised Cannabis Ordinance Exacerbates Existing Problems

Last week Permit Sonoma posted background information on the revised cannabis ordinance, which you can find here.

Two meetings are scheduled on Wednesday, December 13, to explain the key changes that the county will study in the environmental impact report. One will be in person at the Board of Supervisors chambers from 5:30 - 6:30 pm. The second will be a Zoom call from 7:00 - 8:00 pm. Identical information will be presented at the meetings. Register for the Zoom webinar here


While the county’s stated goal is to enhance neighborhood compatibility and environmental protections, it ignores Einstein’s observation that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The proposal will exacerbate the current program’s failures and neighborhood conflicts. It will allow cannabis cultivation to be scattered all over the county even though the Agricultural Commissioner reported in November that cultivation dropped 80% from 2021 to 2022 and was 9 acres.

If only 9 acres – or 40 acres – is to be grown in Sonoma County, why not identify a handful of large appropriate sites and limit cultivation to those locations?

The county lowered cultivation taxes, and now our property and sales taxes subsidize cultivation. What benefit does this activity provide?

The county pretends to improve compatibility by designating some “neighborhood enclaves” (exclusion zones), but virtually all designated parcels in them are already excluded from marijuana cultivation because they are zoned rural residential or agricultural residential. This is disingenuous. 

The county refuses to study the possibility of creating an exclusion zone in any part of Bennett Valley, despite six organizations requesting that commercial marijuana be forbidden within the Bennett Valley Area Plan. 

Some of the proposal’s worst features are:

•    No analysis of the exposure to the public of the carcinogen beta-myrcene (the skunky odor) that cannabis plants emit. Does Sonoma County really think that commercial marijuana cultivation is more important than the health of its residents?

•    It reduces the minimum lot size for cultivation from 10 acres to 5 acres, expanding commercial cultivation to small parcels near residences.

•    It allows retail and events at grow sites. Retail sites in Santa Rosa and Bay Area cities are frequent targets of armed robberies. Rural retail sites will invite urban criminals here because there is no effective law enforcement.

•    It redefines cannabis as an agricultural use, violating state law.

It is important for you to comment on this approach at 

Donations to the Bennett Valley Conservancy to support legal and consultant efforts would be much appreciated.


Commercial Marijuana Properties in Bennett Valley.


The only commercial marijuana site in Bennett Valley in 2023 was a one-acre outdoor cultivation project at 2274 Wellspring Road (off Bennett Valley Road). It was particularly stinky this autumn, with complaints from residents on Matanzas Creek Lane, Bennett Ridge, Savannah Estates, and Sonoma Mountain Road. The skunky odor is a terpene called beta-myrcene, which EPA and California deem to be a carcinogen. If the county finalizes its approach, this site might be allowed to grow six times as much marijuana and subject much of Bennett Valley to carcinogens for weeks at a time in late summer and autumn. If it is allowed to host events, armed robberies might become commonplace in Bennett Valley.