Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – Conflicts of interest related to the cannabis industry were debated as the county’s Board of Supervisors appointed its representative to a statewide cannabis agency.
At their Jan. 12 meeting, supervisors considered and made an appointment to the California Cannabis Authority (CCA), a joint powers authority that coordinates data-gathering on cannabis to aid regulation and assist financial institutions.
The county’s slot on the CCA is open because former Supervisor Estelle Fennell was defeated in last November’s Second District election.
Supervisor Steve Madrone noted that the appointment was continued from the previous week’s meeting due to “some questions about conflicts of interests on the part of some board members.”
Madrone said he’s “very interested in this position,” having been on the board’s cannabis ad hoc committee for the last year-and-a-half.
He added that “neither I nor any member of my family is involved in commercial cannabis growing, etcetera.”
Referring to the state’s ethics training manual, Madrone said financial activities of non-dependent children may not be subject to conflict of interest-related rules but “if the public perceives it as such, if there a strong appearance that we might be conflicted because we have a family member involved,” then recusal is advisable.
The commentary seemed to refer to Supervisor Rex Bohn, whose son Trevor is involved in the cannabis industry.
“I truly appreciate Supervisor Madrone, even though not naming me, looking out for me on my behalf,” Bohn said.
Acknowledging that “the perception of conflict is out there and I’m fully aware that it’s been out there for quite a few years,” Bohn said he was easily re-elected due to “the perception that I’m doing my job without conflict.”
More pointedly, Bohn added, “To try to disparage my family and myself continuously is quite unnerving” and he questioned why Madrone would “make the insinuations that you do and then come back and say ‘I hope our board can work together.’”
Bohn concluded by saying, “Steve, you can do this – kick and scream and throw me under the bus any chance you get to get your way – I’m all for it.”
Board Clerk Kathy Hayes had read aloud an email from Greg Turner, the CCA’s executive director, who said that he doesn’t want to discourage participation from those involved in cannabis business.
“We want them to participate,” he said in the email, adding that “we can talk through” concerns about conflicts.
Madrone didn’t comment further and Bohn said he could support appointing him. But he added a caveat – “My only fear is, as we move forward, that the best way to get a position will be to throw as much dirt at anyone else that wants it.”
Second District Supervisor Michelle Bushnell said she’s “willing, this year, to step back and see what Supervisor Madrone can do” but is interested in the role due to her district’s robust participation in cannabis farming.
She said a conflict of interest on her part “isn’t there” and supported Madrone’s appointment “in the interest of making this board workable.”
Supervisors unanimously voted to appoint Madrone.