SLO County hearing on marijuana ban postponed because of Chimney Fire

Marijuana leaves.
Marijuana leaves.

Citing the Chimney Fire burning near Lake Nacimiento as the reason, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors met briefly and then canceled its meeting Tuesday, delaying an afternoon hearing to consider an emergency ban on marijuana cultivation.

Before adjourning, supervisors ratified a local emergency proclamation issued Friday by County Emergency Services Director and CAO Dan Buckshi, related to the Chimney Fire that has burned more than 37,000 acres and destroyed 52 homes and outbuildings by Tuesday morning. Supervisors directed county staff to bring back information about waiving fees for people who lose structures in the fire.

Ron Alsop, county emergency services director, said the proclamation will allow officials to respond more quickly by streamlining the approval process.

“As the Chimney Fire spreads at an accelerated pace, there are extremely perilous safety conditions for people and property in the county and it’s become harder to mitigate the fire despite firefighters’ best efforts,” Alsop said. “We have to be able to respond and change course quickly. This proclamation allows us to do that.”

The hearing to consider an urgency ordinance banning most cultivation of medical marijuana was rescheduled to Sept. 20.

The county is considering the ordinance to regulate the rapid expansion of medical marijuana grows around the county and to get a step ahead of a statewide ballot measure in November to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

As proposed, the urgency ordinance would generally ban marijuana cultivation except for patients and caregivers with medical marijuana prescriptions, who would be allowed to do indoor and outdoor cultivation of no more than six plants per patient, with no more than 500 square feet under cultivation.

The ordinance would be in effect for 45 days, but it could be extended for up to two years.

County officials estimate there are more than 500 marijuana cultivation sites in the county — with more than 100 grows planted in the California Valley area since the beginning of spring.