A controversial campaign that aimed to gather enough signatures to block San Luis Obispo County’s marijuana ordinance has been canceled, 10 days after it started.
“We got the signatures that we needed. But now we don’t need to use them,” Sean Donahoe, the lead organizer of the effort, said Wednesday. “At this time, we are not going to submit (the petition to the county).”
Donahoe, who works on behalf of CFAM Management Group, said a referendum to overturn the ordinance “is not necessary at this point” because county officials agreed to provide current operators with a letter of good standing that will allow them to apply for state licenses.
The group had to collect 8,580 valid signatures from registered county voters by Dec. 29 to block the ordinance from going into effect and forcing a public vote. County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong said Wednesday the signatures cannot be used for any other purpose, such as a future initiative on the issue.
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Supervisor John Peschong, who chairs the county Board of Supervisors, said Wednesday that the decision was not influenced by the referendum effort, but rather because “we don’t want people to shut down.”
“I can confirm we ware working on how to get something to people so they can apply for temporary state licenses,” Peschong said.
That means the ordinance will likely go into effect Dec. 31 and those interested in participating in the state’s legal commercial cannabis industry can begin the application process for a county land-use permit and then a state license.
The ordinance does not allow store-front dispensaries, but does allow delivery-based dispensaries to apply for a permit. It also limits cultivation permit applications to the 141 cooperative or collective cultivators that registered with the county last year. It also places strict rules and limitations on operations, including a canopy size limitation that will in effect require greenhouses run by CFAM to reduce production by 90 percent.
“I think we’ve written something that gives us an opportunity to start somewhere. I think it’s a good start,” Peschong said.
He said supervisors could say in a few months or a year whether they would, for example, look at another 40 permits if all goes well.
“We could be changing this in the next four or five years as the industry rolls out,” he said.
Donahoe of Operative Campaigns launched the campaign without the support of many others in the industry. Some cultivators who are not one of the 141 allowed to apply for a county permit backed the effort, while others in the industry actively worked against it.
Holiday shoppers likely saw marijuana petition signature gatherers around the county, in Paso Robles or San Luis Obispo, including with misleading signs that said, “save medical dispensaries.”
Peschong said some of them had wrong ideas about the petition and its implications. For example, the ordinance does allow marijuana delivery businesses, which are the only dispensaries currently operating in the county.