Sonoma County supervisors have approved the use of $370,000 in one-time funds to deal with the backlog of cannabis permit applications and gather input from the public as it develops cannabis policy goals for a revised ordinance.

The June 8 action comes after the board unanimously rejected a planning commission recommendation May 18 to adopt the Commercial Cannabis Cultivation in Agricultural and Resource Areas Ordinance, also known as Chapter 38, which would have streamlined permitting for cannabis cultivation within Agricultural and Resource zoned parcels in Sonoma County.

Board chair Lynda Hopkins said natural disasters have hampered staff capacity to review cannabis permits and that the new direction will help turn that around.

“This investment will help expedite the backlog, support the environmental due diligence necessary for developing responsive cannabis policy, and avoid delay and disruption of other planning projects and regular department operations,” she said. “Endless timelines due to limited staff capacity harm both growers and neighbors who need clarity about whether pending projects are permissible or not.”

The plan enables public workshops to begin in August to collect input about cannabis cultivation in the county, followed the next month by the first in a series of board meetings to draft a policy for an eventual ordinance in early 2022.

County officials said a planning commission hearing on the proposed revised ordinance could take place in spring 2024, followed by a Board hearing on the new ordinance in summer 2024.

More information on the cannabis permit program is available on the county’s website.