On January 1, it will be legal to buy recreational marijuana in California cities and counties that are allowing it.
Many local jurisdictions are welcoming sales of the green crop, which is expected to bring in billions of dollars state-wide in 2018. However, many cities and counties have already banned sales and the cultivation of more than six plants at a time.
Forty miles north of Sacramento, Yuba County leaders are considering a resolution to declare a state of emergency because of the controversial crop.
“We have the potential for a major disaster,” said Randy Fletcher, the Chair of the Yuba County Board of Supervisors.
For a year, Yuba County invited legitimate growers to set up shop with some restrictions like having to get a permit and grow indoors. In that time, Fletcher said not a single business signed up for a permit.
The county decided to outright restrict commercial grows this April in light of a plethora of illegal grows that brought with them a whole new set of problems for the county, said Fletcher.
While it's unknown exactly how many illegal grows there are here, the numbers are estimated in the hundreds, possibly more than a thousand. County leaders say law enforcement officers in Yuba County have been working to find and put a halt to these illegal grows but the issue has grown out of control.
Those include environmental issues from chemicals and pesticides used by growers, which are dangerous to people and animals. Yuba County code enforcement officers also documented cases of ground and creek water diversion, including runoff of dangerous chemicals into streams. County leaders also brought up an incident where two Sheriff's deputies were injured in a shootout during a response to an illegal grow.
“We could find ourselves in debt into the millions, if not billions of dollars for cleanup,” said Fletcher.
The declaration of a state of emergency can open the door of state and federal funds that could be used in focused enforcement efforts to tackle the problem. The county board of supervisors are also considering a tax levy to increase funding for law enforcement.
The board will consider the resolution at a special meeting on Thursday at 9 a.m. at the Yuba County Government Center in Marysville.