Mendocino growers ask California to address county’s cannabis licensing

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A trade association representing cannabis growers in California’s Mendocino County has asked the state government for an “urgent intervention” in the county’s licensing process, citing concerns that many farmers’ license applications won’t be processed by a July 1, 2023, deadline.

The Mendocino Cannabis Department and local government have failed to “establish a process capable of moving good-faith cannabis operators towards state annual licensure,” the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance (MCA) claims in a Feb. 8 letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Department of Cannabis Control Director Nicole Elliott.

The letter charges that by the July deadline, the Mendocino Cannabis Department (MCD) will have licensed only 256 “prioritized” marijuana operators in the county, “implying that nearly 70% of Mendocino’s 841 current operators have no path forward to remain in the legal market,” according to an accompanying news release.

“Further, among over 500 ‘deprioritized’ operators, MCA has found that a substantial number have been deprioritized incorrectly based on demonstrably false claims of tax delinquency or lack of state licensure.”

MCA Executive Director Michael Katz said Mendocino County has “no functional permit program in Mendocino, and no plan to create one.”

“We cannot move forward if the county continues to obstruct local licensees,” Katz said in a statement.

“We need the state to intervene, and intervene now, if our legacy cultivators are to survive.”

MCD Director Kristin Nevedal told San Francisco-based news website SFGate that the county is hiring new employees to process license applications and “blamed the lack of annual licenses on delays caused by the county’s cannabis ordinance.”

The issuance of annual licenses in California has become more important since regulators ended provisional licensing in June, essentially cutting off a path for businesses to continue operations and maintain state compliance while they applied for more permanent annual permits.

Critics have long contended that regulators have been slow to issue annual licenses, and the delays in Mendocino County are emblematic of larger, systemic issues throughout state and local jurisdictions.