San Luis Obispo County will be home to a maximum of 141 legal marijuana grows bigger than six plants next year, under a new land-use ordinance that will only allow cultivators who successfully registered with the county last year to apply for growing permits in 2018.
After many months of discussion and rule tweaks, the SLO County Board of Supervisors adopted a cannabis ordinance at a special all-day hearing on Nov. 27. The final vote was 3-2, with 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill and 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson dissenting.
"I look at it as a starting point. This is a slow rollout," said 1st District Supervisor and board chair John Peschong, who voted in favor of the ordinance.
Under the rules, the eligible cultivators will be able to grow on specifically zoned property at certain acreages with setback requirements. Additionally, personal and caregiver grows are banned outdoors and can't exceed six plants total. All storefront dispensaries are banned, and cannabis manufacturing is allowed but limited to using non-volatile substances. Delivery services are allowed under the ordinance.
Successful pot growers will need to find at least a 10-acre site zoned agricultural, a 20-acre site zoned residential rural, or a 50-acre site zoned rural lands before applying for a cultivation permit.
Industry hopefuls especially criticized the 50-acre rural lands requirement. Land-use consultant Jamie Kirk told the board it could put several registered growers in the county out of business.
"I've looked at it, and these are small family farms, the ones we've talked about wanting to protect," Kirk said. "The unintended consequence of the blanket restriction is it's going marginalize these operators."
The board voted to keep the limit.
Supervisors squabbled over the ordinance at length, with Hill and Gibson harshly critical of an ordinance that was largely shaped by Supervisor Peschong, 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold, and 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton.
"You're telling all the small growers, 'See ya,'" Hill said of the rules. "We're killing them before they even get a chance to compete."
Hill added that the county was "picking winners and losers" with the regulations. Compton, who said she's received many complaints about cannabis farm smells in her district, countered Hill, saying "we do that with every land-use designation we make."
"In every aspect, we're picking winners and losers," Compton said. "I have to look at what conditions the citizens that elected me to office want and don't want." Δ