How strictly will marijuana be regulated in SLO County? It’s up for debate

A marijuana grow in Nipomo.
A marijuana grow in Nipomo.

Where will marijuana farms take root in the unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County? That topic is up for discussion Tuesday, as supervisors revisit draft rules to shape an emerging industry.

The Board of Supervisors and county staff writing the ordinance are faced with balancing neighbors’ concerns about smell, water usage and safety issues, with supporting an industry that could bring in hefty revenues.

Decisions must be made on how many farms will be allowed, how the county will decide who gets licenses and where marijuana can be grown, particularly whether grows should be allowed on rural land surrounding California Valley.

Californians legalized recreational marijuana in November, setting the stage for an emerging recreational cannabis industry. But the state and the county have yet to implement specific rules and licensing requirements for businesses and growing operations that will likely be highly regulated.

The Board of Supervisors last week agreed to budget $1 million to pay for code enforcement officers, sheriff’s deputies, an attorney and agricultural workers to oversee pesticide use. Eventually, the county expects those positions to be paid for with licensing fees and/or taxes. A discussion about taxation and fee structure is planned for a board meeting July 25.

A close-up look at Forbidden Farms' marijuana growing operation in Shelton and the processing facility on the Tacoma Tideflats in Washington. Owned by the Balduff brothers Garrett and Taylor, the premium producer even supplies cannabis connoisseur

Hundreds of farmers already raise marijuana throughout San Luis Obispo County. Many of them are registered with the county under an emergency ordinance that was adopted in September and may be renewed this year. Currently, no new cultivation sites are allowed, except by new patients and primary caregivers.

The Planning Commission is expected to begin public hearings on the land use ordinance July 27.

Here are some of the hot topics yet to be discussed:

▪  Should the number of licenses issued for cultivation be capped at 100?

▪  How should the county decide who gets the permits? Should it be competitive, based on criteria such as business plan and background check, a lottery or first come, first serve?

▪  Should dispensaries continue to be limited to medical purposes only?

▪  Should delivery services be allowed?

Proposition 64 establishes one ounce of marijuana, or 8 grams of cannabis concentrates, as the legal limit for recreational pot possession for adults over age 21. Here are examples of actual amounts of products someone could carry now that Califor

Monica Vaughan: 805-781-7930, @MonicaLVaughan

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