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County supervisors extend deadlines for cannabis growers 

After a vote by San Luis Obispo County supervisors, hopeful local cannabis farmers will get a little extra time to file applications for cultivation permits. In exchange, their projects could receive a little extra scrutiny from the community.

County supervisors agreed at a Dec. 11 meeting to extend a looming Dec. 31 deadline for growers to submit land-use applications. They set a new deadline of April 1, 2019, after industry members and officials argued that the previous timeline would leave many in the dust.

click to enlarge NEW DEADLINES San Luis Obispo County supervisors extended several deadlines for prospective cannabis businesses on Dec. 11, as complex regulations and an application bottleneck have challenged industry, residents, and officials. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • NEW DEADLINES San Luis Obispo County supervisors extended several deadlines for prospective cannabis businesses on Dec. 11, as complex regulations and an application bottleneck have challenged industry, residents, and officials.

Supervisors expressed concern that not moving the deadlines would allow the permit process to "open up" to anyone; they crafted their rules to favor a group of roughly 160 growers who had come forward to register their grows in 2016 and 2017.

Only 73 of those eligible growers had applied by Dec. 11, according to the county. Only six cannabis permits have been issued thus far. There are 141 total cultivation permits available.

"I actually think we need to give a little longer," said 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold, to several nodding heads in the chamber audience. "They're probably trying to relocate and haven't been able to do that."

In addition to the new filing deadline, applicants now have all of 2019 to get through the approval process. Another deadline extension to help growers is an enforcement abeyance sunset date of Dec. 31, now moved to May 1, 2019. The abeyance means that not-yet-permitted cultivators can actively grow without threat of enforcement, as long as their applications are in and they are not growing on new property.

The supervisors made several other tweaks to the ordinance, including one demanded by residents of Templeton and Nipomo neighboring proposed cannabis projects under review. Now, neighboring properties within 1,000 feet of a cannabis application will be notified—and twice, once when an application is initially filed and another when public hearings come around. The previous buffer had been 300 feet, with a notice only before a public hearing.

"A lot of the animosity today is people are surprised," 1st District Supervisor John Peschong said in support of the noticing changes.

Despite the delays and numerous complaints from both the cannabis industry and local residents about the county's process, officials say it's all starting to smooth out.

"We are seeing projects beginning to move through the process," said Rob Fitzroy, deputy director of SLO County Planning and Building. "There's always a little bit of a lag time that does slow the process down. We've begun to hit a stride." Δ

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