The stage is set for the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors to finalize a permanent ordinance regulating the local marijuana industry after members heard comments on a draft Tuesday.
In a standing-room only meeting Tuesday, supervisors heard feedback from the public on the proposed ordinance passed by the Planning Commission on Sept. 14 that would, among other things, cap the number of outdoor growing sites in unincorporated areas of the county at 50.
Supervisors plan to vote Oct. 17 on the rules, which they aim to have in place before the state begins issuing licenses to cannabis businesses on Jan. 1, 2018.
The ordinance would create a permitting process and regulations for all marijuana businesses, including cultivation, dispensary, nursery, manufacturing and testing facilities. Personal and caregiver gardens would be exempt from most regulations.
California residents approved Proposition 64 in November, legalizing recreational marijuana statewide. But local governments still have broad powers to control commercial marijuana businesses throughout their jurisdictions.
Tension over whether the county should fully embrace the booming growth of an emerging industry — or tread carefully with strict regulations out of concern of for issues like water use and public safety — has been a common thread since discussions began a year ago.
“The county should want every citizen in the county to have every opportunity if they desire,” local marijuana cultivator Edward Greg told the board. “San Luis Obispo County can use the additional tax money and the additional jobs.”
Supervisor Adam Hill echoed that sentiment.
“If we pass something that is overly restrictive, we are going to make it difficult to have economic success,” Hill said.
He ended a short speech that was met with applause by saying, “approaching this as heavy-handedly as we might or we may, may be acting against the intent of the voters.”
Still, a line of residents who have experienced marijuana grows in their neighborhoods asked the county to act cautiously.
Wayne Moody, a commercial fisherman who lives in Huasna Valley, said he’s “against this operation because of the large water use.”
A grow near his house, he said, “now looks like a Christmas tree farm, but with a totally different smell.”
Much of the tension between the opposing views has been distilled into the debate over a proposed cap on the number of outdoor grow operations.
The county has limited data to measure the effect that would have on pre-existing businesses, including several operations that have been operating for decades under the state’s medical marijuana laws.
More than 300 operations are registered in the county currently. Of those, 140 are not personal or caregiver operations, meaning they might fall under the category of commercial cannabis operations. Of those, 39 are indoor and 101 outdoor.