By Jason Besaw
I have been working for Nevada County Code Compliance for over five years and have focused on Cannabis Compliance the last four years. I was the county’s first Cannabis Compliance Officer when the county legalized commercial medical cannabis in 2019.
My duties are two-fold. First, I review new applications for commercial cannabis within the unincorporated areas of the county and conduct initial and recurring inspections for compliance under local and state laws. I work hand in hand with other local and state agencies to ensure compliance. Throughout the year, my colleagues and I conduct outreach to try and educate the public and bring in those seeking a legal permit. The other part of my job is responding to complaints and proactively seeking illegal cannabis cultivation sites, often teaming up with law enforcement bodies. While seeking voluntary abatement and compliance is the goal, there are times where fines and warrants are necessary to correct violations. Violations often include zoning, building, and environmental concerns. There have been a number of illegal growers that have even become legal permit holders after abating and correcting violations. My team and I constantly adapt to new laws, changes in policy, and a changing physical environment.
I was born in New Hampshire, but at age 8 my family moved to Orange County in California. After graduating high school in 2000, I attended a private military academy in Vermont on a Navy Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) scholarship. I was third generation US Navy. In early 2001, I decided that lifestyle was not a good match for me and returned to California. By this time my parents had moved to Grass Valley and I lived with them while attending Sierra College. I had been away from the military academy for several months and then the events of September 11, 2001 occurred and reminded me why I wanted to serve in the first place. I did not want to commit myself full-time to the military, as my goal was to finish college; however, since Beale Air Force Base was the closest base around, I decided that I would take a break from college to enlist in the US Air Force Reserves. The Reserves provided me more control and flexibility over serving while having a civilian life. Within a couple weeks after 9/11, I was in contact with a recruiter working on that path.
I started out my enlisted career as a mid-air refueling operator, or boom operator, on a KC-135E assigned to the 940th Air Refueling Wing at Beale. It took approximately two years to go through basic training and become fully qualified in my specialty. I continued my schooling full-time at California State University, Chico while working part-time for the Reserves. This worked out well and helped pay for college. I would fly on days I didn’t have classes or on weekends. I literally got to fly all over the world. I decided to stay in past my initial enlistment for the unique opportunities of travel the Reserves provided as well as extra income. In addition to hundreds of temporary duty assignments around the world, I have been deployed to Turkey, Guam, and Iceland. After serving nearly 17 years with the 940th Air Refueling Wing, as an enlisted member, a commissioned officer, a boom operator, a remotely piloted aircraft sensor operator, intelligence officer, traditional one-weekend-a-month-two-weeks-a-year reservist, an active-duty reservist, and Air Reserve Technician (reservist but also federal civilian employee working for the Air Force), I decided it was time for a new challenge. Since 2018, I have served as an individual mobilized augmentee (reservist assigned to an active duty unit) assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing (Bloody Hundredth – legacy WWII Air Wing) at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, Suffolk, England. Serving as a reservist overseas provides its own unique challenges. I am responsible for more of my own training and maintaining annual tasks such as medical, dental, and fitness readiness. I have to work with my civilian employer, Nevada County, about preparing for my absence. Most importantly, I have to prepare my family for my absence. I try to be as involved as possible with the family, all while being 5,000 miles away with an eight-hour time difference. Missing the inevitable birthday, holiday, game, and school events are all part of the sacrifice it means for anyone serving.
As a reservist, you can choose where to live. The military can’t give you orders every few years to relocate. Whether serving locally at Beale, or overseas at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, I have chosen to make Northern California my home. I serve two-fold: my country through the US Air Force Reserves and my community through employment as a Code Compliance Officer for Nevada County Community Development Agency. I have always been drawn to public service, both in employment and education earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in public administration. Working for the Air Force, you have to see your role as how it supports the bigger, strategic picture. Serving locally as a Code Compliance Officer, I get to see the direct results of my efforts to work with and improve the community. I am fortunate to serve the community where I live and raise my family. Wherever I go in the world, it is comforting to return to home to family, friends, and familiar faces.