The Kenwood Press
News: 08/01/2020

SVCAC supports Glen Ellen cannabis operation

Melissa Dowling

“It’s BenZIGer, not BenZINGer.” Margaret Spaulding’s clarification was one of the few comments for Mike and Mary Benziger at the July 22 SVCAC meeting prior to a unanimous recommendation for county use permit approval of the Glentucky Farms medicinal cannabis operation in Glen Ellen. The Benzigers have been seeking county approval for a 50-plant outdoor cannabis grow and indoor seedling facility on their Glentucky Family Farm for over three years.

Mike and Mary started Glentucky Farm in 2015 on 8.4 acres, adjacent to Jack London State Park and the Benziger Winery property, after the winery sold to The Wine Group for an undisclosed amount. Important in the mission of Glentucky Farm is to responsibly cultivate food and medicinal plants. According to Benziger, “Their focus is on biodynamic farming to produce the highest purity of product.” Benziger also raised the need to preserve family farms and said that cannabis cultivation can help boost revenue. He stated, “A small amount of cannabis in the quiver can save family farms.”

This year marks the Benzigers’ sixth vintage of cannabis with zero complaints from the surrounding community. All eight of their adjacent neighbors submitted letters of approval for their project to the SVCAC prior to the meeting. Jonah Raskin, who has published articles about cannabis locally and nationally stated that he wholeheartedly supports the application. He emphatically stated, “I believe that Jack London, who used cannabis, would support this application.”

According to Glentucky Family Farm’s website, “Biodynamics is a wholistic, ecological and ethical approach to farming, food, medicine and nutrition. Biodynamic Agriculture views the farm as a self-contained and self-sustaining organism. Its farmers strictly avoid all synthetic chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and transgenic contamination. Instead they stress farm-generated, living solutions to pest control and to fertility.”

Benziger’s presentation addressed the four key areas of concern for cannabis operation approval, which are typically fragrance, traffic, water, and security. Prevailing winds blow the sometimes pungent cannabis smell toward the winery property. They do not expect to hire any workers nor have any visitors at the property. They use rainwater, not groundwater for irrigation. They have a 10-foot fence surrounding the property, live on site, have extensive security cameras and a guard dog. The SVCAC committee members were satisfied with these conditions.

Additionally, Benziger requested a waiver for the size of the lot, which is 1.6 acres smaller than the required 10 acres, and for setback from the adjacent Jack London State Park. Benziger described the steep grade and thick forest that separates his property from any areas of the park accessible to visitors. He stated that they had never had a trespasser on the farm.

The next step for final approval of the Glentucky Family Farms cannabis use permit is review and approval by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 12.