Hundreds of SLO County marijuana farms would be shut down under proposed rules

What it's like to grow marijuana in California Valley

Andrew Joseph Hafler shows his marijuana grows and talks about what it's like to grow cannabis in California Valley in eastern San Luis Obispo County.
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Andrew Joseph Hafler shows his marijuana grows and talks about what it's like to grow cannabis in California Valley in eastern San Luis Obispo County.

Hundreds of registered commercial marijuana growers operating in unincorporated San Luis Obispo County may have to close up shop if the latest draft of a proposed ordinance becomes law.

The county Planning Commission on Thursday voted unanimously to recommend a series of regulations that would cap permitted outdoor marijuana grows at 50 in coastal and inland areas. However, the ordinance would permit an unlimited number of indoor marijuana grows, according to Brandi Cummings, a county planner.

Commissioners also recommended banning all cultivation in the Carrizo planning area of the county, which includes California Valley.

The recommended regulations will come before the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 3 for a final decision.

California residents approved Proposition 64 in November, which legalized recreational marijuana statewide. But local governments still have broad powers to control commercial marijuana businesses throughout their jurisdictions.

The county has been grappling with marijuana regulations since last September after a cannabis boom in the California Valley region, a remote area on the eastern edge of the county, led to an urgency ordinance.

The ordinance limited commercial grows to those already in the ground as of Aug. 23, 2016, and required cultivators to register with the county and keep their farms code-compliant. It also included exemptions for medical marijuana patients and caregivers.

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Those regulations were extended for a year in August, but new, permanent rules would replace them.

If the Board of Supervisors approves the Planning Commission’s recommended ordinance, it would greatly change the landscape of commercial marijuana cultivation in unincorporated areas of the county.

According to a county staff report, there were 335 permitted marijuana grows throughout the county, as of Aug. 22. Most of those cultivation sites are in California Valley — of the 455 applications the county had received in November, 288 were in that area.

Eighty-nine were in other North County areas, 48 were in the South County, 10 were in coastal planning areas, four were in the San Luis Obispo area and three were in the Carrizo area outside California Valley.

If the ordinance passes, all growers — even those already registered with the county — would need to apply for a new permit, according to Cummings.

With many grows operating outside, cultivators would either need to create an indoor farming setup or face fierce competition for an outdoor permit.

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseyholden27

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