An ordinance designed to stop the sudden blossoming of private marijuana grows in unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County was extended another 10 1/2 months Tuesday.
The extension passed the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors unanimously, with board members agreeing the temporary regulations address public safety and other issues while the county continues to work toward a permanent ordinance.
Last spring, more than 100 marijuana grows sprouted up on mostly barren 2.5-acre parcels throughout California Valley, about 95 percent of which were bought or leased by cultivators from outside the county. Sheriff Ian Parkinson said that with the influx of growers, calls for service for the Sheriff’s Office increased by 115 percent over the past year.
The Sheriff’s Office received 181 calls for service as of Oct. 16 this year, compared with 84 total calls for service in all of 2015, figures show — with an emergency response time of about 35 to 45 minutes.
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On Sept. 20, supervisors passed the urgency ordinance 4-1, with Adam Hill dissenting, banning cultivation by anyone who didn’t have plants in the ground Aug. 23. Officials estimate that equates to roughly 500 grow sites. The ordinance allows those legal marijuana growers to continue operating as long as they meet certain criteria, such as having an at-least 6-foot-tall fence to enclose the cultivation area.
The ordinance contains exemptions for qualified patients or primary caregivers who meet certain criteria.
Growers have until Nov. 19 to register with the county. Assistant County Administrative Officer Guy Savage said that as of Tuesday, 18 growers had registered, but he said he expects many were waiting to see whether the board extended the ordinance before registering.
Savage noted that, regardless of the outcome of Proposition 64 — a statewide measure on the Nov. 8 ballot that would legalize adult recreational use of marijuana — local growers still need to register with the county by the deadline.
We don’t want to be looking over our shoulder for God knows how many more years.
Simon Caleb, a California Valley marijuana grower
On Tuesday, the board heard from four speakers, at least one of whom grows marijuana, supporting the ordinance.
Simon Caleb, a California Valley resident and grower, said the urgency ordinance “gives the sheriff breathing room” and gives the county information about who is growing — and where — while long-term rules are being established.
“We don’t want to be looking over our shoulder for God knows how many more years,” Caleb said. “We want to be able to (grow) legally, honestly, environmentally friendly ... and I just believe this is the best way to proceed to get a regular county ordinance, one that we can all abide by. Right now, it’s a gray area.”
I think what we’re trying to do is to find a way to make sure that those that are (growing) the right way continue to do it the right way, and obviously some are.
San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Frank Mecham
Before casting his vote, Supervisor Bruce Gibson noted that societal changes are coming with Proposition 64.
“We have to be out in front of it,” he said. “This board has to commit to getting the resources going to get sensible regulations in place.”
“I think what we’re trying to do is to find a way to make sure that those that are (growing) the right way continue to do it the right way, and obviously some are,” Supervisor Frank Mecham said. “I do respect when the sheriff and his crew says they need this extended, they need this extended.”
The urgency ordinance will be in place through August 2017. The board may extend it once more with a four-fifths vote, or it can overturn it at any time with a simple majority.
County staff initially had recommended extending the ordinance through September 2018, but Gibson motioned for a shorter term, which could be extended with another vote should a permanent ordinance not be ready. Hill seconded the motion, and Mecham, Supervisor Debbie Arnold and Supervisor Lynn Compton agreed on the shorter term, as long as the board could vote to extend it.
The board was scheduled to publicly discuss a draft of the permanent marijuana ordinance at its Nov. 15 meeting, but because that agenda is already packed, it will be moved to a later date.
The public review process of the permanent ordinance is expected to last through August 2017; should it require environmental review, a vote on a final ordinance could extend to February 2018.