CA: Calaveras Will Use Photos From Satellites To Enforce Pot Law

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The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors approved a contract with GeoNorth LLC Tuesday evening to use satellite imagery for cannabis cultivation inspection and enforcement.

Peter Maurer, the Calaveras County planning director, said the images will be a “snapshot in time.” It will be another tool for enforcers and inspectors to determine if cultivators are complying with regulations.

The county will pay $59,447 to the Alaska-based company for the imagery. The money will come from the funds generated through the cannabis application process.

It is the second time the county has used satellite imagery for cannabis inspection since the urgency ordinance was approved in the spring. In late May, Maurer said a snapshot was taken for use during the cannabis application review process. He said applicants had to demonstrate proven progress to cultivate on a site by the time the urgency ordinance was ratified.

Maurer said the satellite imagery will be helpful for county enforcers. It will not serve as the primary way to review compliance. The picture is accurate enough to determine cannabis cultivation sites but exact measurements will be difficult.

If county officials have concerns seen on the satellite imagery, they will send inspectors to the cultivation site, Maurer said.

The images will be taken over a several week period. Maurer said the earliest the county will obtain the images would be by the end of September. He said weather, smoke and other constraints delay how soon the pictures may be available.

Though the county will not be able to obtain the images until just weeks before cultivators begin to harvest their crops, Maurer said the imagery will have enough shelf life. He said the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office and county staff review multiple sites a day.

Maurer said he does not know of other counties that use this type of photography.

“There is not enough history (following cannabis regulation),” Maurer said. “Every county is grappling with the issue. All are trying to work together and share the best method.”

Representatives from GEONorth were not in attendance Tuesday evening. An official with the company has not responded to requests for an interview.

Stanley Moore, the Calaveras County information technology manager, suggested during Tuesday’s meeting that satellite imagery for cannabis inspections in the public sector may not be something GeoNorth has done in the past.

“They were hoping to build business with Calaveras County,” he said.

Maurer said the practice of using satellite imagery for other purposes has been done before. Planning departments have been using the technology for years. Calaveras County, in particular, has been using the imagery since 1998.

Peter Racz, of Jenny Lind, expressed concern during public comment about privacy violations by the county receiving the satellite imagery. When asked by supervisors whether privacy would be invaded, Calaveras County Counsel Megan Stedtfeld said the satellite imagery was not a cause for concern.

Chief Josh White, of Cal Fire’s Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit, said, during public comment, the imagery could be used to combat tree mortality in the county. Maurer said individual trees will not be countable with the technology but it will reveal what percentage of the trees are dying.

“There are opportunities for Calaveras to compete with nine other counties for grant money,” White said. “Calaveras has to take the specialized information and streamline it into grant requests.”

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Calaveras Will Use Photos From Satellites To Enforce Pot Law
Author: Jason Cowan
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Website: The Union Democrat