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Cannabis Future Uncertain as Board Moves Towards Vote

In a move that initially shocked, then angered marijuana advocates who’ve long followed the local process by which sale and cultivation for recreational use is set to become legal, the SLO County Board of Supervisors (BOS) gave staff an restrictive list of changes to their proposed cannabis land-use ordinance.

The 3-2 conservative majority on the BOS, asked for a lengthy list of changes to the ordinance which had passed their Planning Commission 3-2.

After three meetings of their own starting Oct. 3, again Oct. 17 and a continuation on Oct. 20 (which took more than six hours and displaced another planning meeting from the Boardroom), the review has been continued once again to Nov. 7.

Public comment will still be taken on that Tuesday as well before a vote.

For background, it has been nearly a year since California voters passed Proposition 64, legalizing recreational marijuana with a 56.5 percent majority, carrying two-thirds of the state’s counties, including SLO. While there’s been much confusion over what that entitled folks to do in the wake of the vote, most Prop. 64 provisions are set to take effect Jan. 1, 2018. That’s led to a rush for municipalities and counties to figure out how to license businesses or create prohibitions in land use and zoning.

Many cities in the state have opted to simply disallow brick-and-mortar storefronts and commercial cultivation until planners have a chance to see how more permissive jurisdictions fare.

That was not the approach originally taken in the ordinance drafted by staff for SLO County. Dispensaries would have been allowed in the unincorporated areas of the County – areas such as Los Osos, Oceano, Cayucos, Cambria and Avila Beach – but would have to be located 1,000 feet away from schools, libraries, parks, or recreation centers. They also wouldn’t have been allowed to mix with alcohol or tobacco businesses.

With the revisions proposed by the BOS majority, dispensaries, stationary or mobile, would be flat out prohibited.

Deliveries similar to the services currently used for medicinal purposes would be allowed however.

Much of the debate Oct. 20 centered on how permits for land use and business licenses would be processed and distributed.

The number staff were given as acceptable would now be 141 of the cultivators already on a registration list.

Personal use guidelines enshrined in the Prop. 64 language would not be impacted, allowing six plants to be grown per dwelling unit or giving caregivers rights to take on that allotment for up to five patients.

The restrictions on how many site and where the crop can be grown came after residents in the Nipomo area had apparently complained to District 4 Supervisor Lynn Compton about existing operations registered with the County.

That prompted District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson to lash out on social media later in the week, “The hard-right Board majority continued their assault on reasonable regulation of cannabis. When we review their handiwork in a couple weeks (Nov. 7) you’ll see they’ve made a complete hash of our land use regulations,” he wrote. “Sup. Lynn Compton in particular used a few undocumented complaints to further quash where this legal crop can be grown. Most striking, the majority completely abandoned their conservative principles of business support, modest regulation and personal freedom.”

Gibson announced last week that he’s running for a fourth term on the BOS.

– By Camas Frank

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