Supes consider cannabis cultivation cap


SAN LUIS OBISPO — At the June 20 meeting of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, county planning staff presented a draft cannabis land use ordinance to begin to regulate marijuana cultivation operations in unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County.

The main question up for discussion and open for public comment was about whether or not to cap the number of permits issued to marijuana cultivators at 100. Other topics included cultivation numbers under a single permit, the number of permits issued to an individual cultivator, the total number of plants that could be cultivated on a single site and location regulation regarding rural cultivation in proximity to areas that are zoned for residential and commercial use.   

The draft ordinance is very complex, not just because the county is trying to regulate an industry that about a year ago operated without any regulation, but because the State of California is issuing a wide variety of license types. The problem that arises with different license types include matching those individual licenses to the proper zone under the draft land use ordinance. Each State license issued is different and could be used for cultivation, manufacturing, retail, delivery, medical and recreational cannabis businesses.

This type of regulation began to take shape in SLO County in July 2016, after county supervisors approved an urgency ordinance in response to the passage of Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA)in November of that year. Since then, planning staff reported at the meeting that 431 registration applications were submitted under the county’s marijuana cultivation urgency ordinance and at the meeting recommended the ordinance be renewed in September of this year.

The intent of the urgency ordinance is to give SLO County Code Enforcement, and planning staff a basic outline to regulate cultivation until a complete land use ordinance is approved with provisions for taxation, distribution regulation, standards for growth and land use guidelines and restrictions.

According to the staff report made to supervisors on June 20, Supervisor Debbie Arnold’s District 5 and Lynn Compton’s District 4 currently rank as the top two growing areas, with the largest number of grow operations in their districts currently registered under the urgency ordinance.

In an interview with the Paso Robles Press and Atascadero News, Arnold, who represents the area with the largest number of cannabis cultivators in the North County, said that she hasn’t formed a solid opinion on capping because the different licenses issued by the State of California provide for different size cultivation grows.

“I don’t know if it is the number that is important,” she said. “The whole idea of capping was just to be able to avoid situations like what we saw in California Valley that is part of my district where suddenly an entire community is overwhelmed with this influx of growth in that industry.”

Arnold went on to say that the biggest issue in her mind is that with rural areas like the California Valley and other remote areas of the county, local law enforcement and county code enforcement officers are hard pressed to maintain order.

“What we saw in California Valley was that the infrastructure was not in place to support the number of cultivators already in business there,” Arnold said. “Personally, marijuana and cannabis industry aside, anyone that is in business legitimately and has invested in that business, I would not want to change the rules and put them out of business necessarily. We were trying to get an idea for who was out there and remember that we are taking an industry that before legalization was operating without our knowledge.”

At the time of publication the Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press requested at statement from board chairman John Peschong, the representative for District 1, but he was unavailable to comment due to a family emergency. At the June 20 meeting, Peschong said he supported a cap in agreement with fellow supervisor Lynn Compton, who expressed concern over the large number of grow operations in Districts 4 and 5.

Those opposed to the cap included Supervisor Adam Hill and Supervisor Bruce Gibson. At the end of the meeting, the board determined that the draft ordinance should go to the County Planning Commission to be reviewed at the next Planning Commission hearing, July 27.

At the meeting the board will be considering the cultivation cap, how permits to be issued and whether or not delivery services should be allowed.

All Board of Supervisor meetings and Planning Commission hearings are open to the public for comment. Agendas can be reviewed by visiting slocounty.ca.gov.

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