Dan Peterson starts as county’s cannabis licensing official
By: Jondi Gumz
SANTA CRUZ >> Santa Cruz County has its first cannabis czar.
Daniel Peterson, 55, who has spent his career as a water resources engineer for Yuba and Sutter counties, started Monday as the Santa Cruz cannabis licensing official, overseeing an industry operating in the shadows that now has an opportunity to become legitimate.
“Call me Dan,” he said. “I’m very approachable. I have a desire to meet everybody who’s a stakeholder.”
Peterson, whose salary is $134,000, was chosen from more than 100 applicants.
His previous job involved public outreach on the issue of flood insurance and involvement in marijuana enforcement. The latter led to him writing his master’s thesis on medical marijuana registration and distribution from the perspective of cities and counties.
“I found it a fascinating topic,” he said.
He said his wife insisted he apply for the Santa Cruz County post.
She has been studying medical cannabis for her doctoral thesis, looking at the challenges entrepreneurs face in California.
“Between the two of us, we’ve read hundreds of reviewed articles and researched all the state laws,” said Peterson, a former powerlifter who has taken up running 10Ks and half-marathons.
He’s renting in Scotts Valley until his wife, a certified public accountant with a teaching commitment, can join him. The couple have seven grown children.
Just 17 days remain until the Nov. 6 deadline for cannabis cultivators in Santa Cruz County to register, which is the first step to get a license.
About 140 have started the online registration process, with about 50 completing the process, “far lower than we’d like to see,” Peterson said.
For anyone who wants a license, it is imperative they register, according to Peterson.
“I have no discretion,” he said. “I can’t issue a license unless someone has done the registration by Nov. 6.”
To growers discouraged that their operation will not meet county requirements, Peterson advises them to register anyway.
“We can work with them to get into compliance,” he said. “This is not the time to limit your options.”
He said it’s possible for cultivators to register anonymously with an email address in place of a name and physical address.
“Anyone with questions, please call,” he said.
By year-end, Peterson expects to hire four staffers, some with building code compliance experience to do inspections and some with a land-use background to check sites for environmental compliance. Applications have closed; he has more than a dozen applicants to consider.
County supervisors have resisted requests to extend the Nov. 6 deadline.
Tuesday, supervisors voted 4-1, with Greg Caput dissenting, to begin environmental review of a draft ordinance on cannabis cultivation licensing.
The proposed ordinance establishes seven classes of licenses based on existing zoning regulations, requires growers to obtain local and state cultivation licenses and specifies property setbacks, buffers from schools, parks and libraries and protection of water and other environmental resources.
At Supervisor John Leopold’s request, the environmental review process will consider the possibility of multiple licenses on parcels more than 40 acres zoned for commercial agriculture.
The San Lorenzo Valley Water District requested applicants in that watershed get clearance from the water district but that provision was not in the final draft.
Aptos cultivator Brenda Chadwick asked for a small-scale grower license to be added in wake of Gov. Jerry Brown signing AB 2516, the Cottage Cannabis Farmers Bill, on Sept. 29.
Leopold said she made a good case but he was reluctant to revamp what had been done, saying, “I feel a lot of moving pieces right now.”
To reach Dan Peterson, call 831-454-3426 or email Daniel.Peterson@santacruzcounty.us.
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinal
Author: Jondi Gumz
Published: October, 20 2016
URL: Santa Cruz Sentinal