Debriefer: July 15, 2015

Cannabis report and beach-fee verdict on hold

July 8 was going to be a big day. A high-flying state commission was planning to issue its report on legalizing cannabis, and the Sonoma County beach-fee fracas was going to be settled. But alas, delays have set in as we head into the dog days of summer.

First, cannabis. The final draft of a much-anticipated Blue Ribbon Commission Report on Marijuana Policy from Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was going to be released July 8. And yet here we are post-8/8 and there’s no report in our inbox.

Turns out the release of the report has been put off until
July 20, says Abdi Soltani, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, who is on the steering committee of the commission.

In a quick chat with Debriefer, Soltani says the commission wanted to take a closer look at developments in states that have legalized cannabis before releasing the much-anticipated report.

As for beach access, the California Coastal Commission had its latest meeting July 8 in Ventura. There wasn’t a peep about a hotly contested plan to install “iron rangers,” self-pay fee stations at state-run beaches in Sonoma County.

You’ll recall that in April the commission stepped in to adjudicate a squabble between California Department of Parks and Recreation and Sonoma County. The state wants to install the rangers, and the county wants its people to have free access to the 14 state beaches along the coast.

The state appealed the county’s decision to nix the fee plan, and the appeal jumped the issue to the Coastal Commission, where it remains. And where it will likely remain for at least a year, unless people start, ya know, working together.

Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo says he’s hopeful the issue will get kicked back to the state and county to sort it out. He’d like to engage in a conversation with state parks, but says that hasn’t started. In the meantime, he says, “the commission’s interest is to find a way for the county and the state to find some common ground.”

“We’re still sitting on it,” says state parks spokesman Dennis Weber. “In the meantime, you’ve seen our arguments.”

The agency’s argument is basically that there are not many places left in the state where state parks is not collecting parking fees and they’re needed to maintain facilities. Access is free along the Sonoma and Mendocino coasts, but elsewhere, says Weber, “we’ve been charging for decades.”

Nancy Cave is the North Coast district manager for the Coastal Commission and says a resolution on the fees will take a year—if the decision isn’t wrested from their hands.

“We’d love it if the county and state can work it out, but we’re willing to do it,” she says.

In the meantime, Carrillo says Sonoma County has revised its own beach-fee collection system.

“We now offer regional parks passes for low-income individuals,” says Carrillo. It’s $5 for an annual pass for those who qualify.