On Jan. 10, supervisors in this historic county—where Gold Rush mining camps flourished in 1850—voted to kill off the Green Rush that exploded here in 2016. By a 3–2 tally, the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors declared all commercial cannabis farms illegal. The county planning department estimated that as many as 1,600 commercial cannabis growers were operating in the region in mid-2017. Many of them were licensed by the county. Now, the move to ban cannabis businesses means every one of those growers must cease operations by May 1. Millions of dollars in tax money will vanish from the economically beleaguered county of 45,000 residents.
In the vote’s aftermath, protests have stirred amid fears over devastating cuts to the county workforce. Lawsuits appear certain.
“It is just ground zero for chaos,” says Paul Smith, vice president of governmental affairs for the Rural County Representatives of California, an organization focusing on the Golden State’s sparsely populated inland and northern coastal counties.