Debra Weistar: Little data on cannabis growers – The Union of Grass Valley

Cannabis is a big part of Nevada County culture and has been for decades. Cannabis cultivation provides many residents with jobs and contributes to our local economy.

Laws have dramatically changed in recent years as different counties in our watershed adopted or shut down pathways for commercial cultivators to grow legally.

After an extensive public process, Nevada County was the only county in the watershed to approve an urgency ordinance for commercial cannabis cultivation in May 2019. The intention was to encourage growers to come into compliance and help mitigate impacts from illegal cannabis cultivation.

Since then, only a small percentage of all the cultivators in Nevada County have moved through the system. Of the estimated 3,500 cultivators in Nevada County (not including the three other counties in our watershed), only 3% have come into compliance as of 2021, which means we are missing data about the vast majority of cultivators in regard to their practices, challenges and values.

The South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) seeks to understand why people are not coming into compliance, which is why the organization launched a survey at the end of March. This work is part of their Growing Green for the Yuba program, which began in 2013 to educate growers and encourage cannabis cultivation that minimizes negative effects on the watershed.

Through the survey, SYRCL aims to increase understanding regarding the challenges and barriers that cultivators who want to come into compliance face. It also wants to understand why others are choosing not to come into compliance.

SYRCL wants to hear from community members, too. How is cannabis cultivation impacting those who don’t grow (or don’t grow commercially)? And how are large (and often illegal) cultivation operations still creating negative environmental impacts, including illegal water diversions, clear cutting,

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