Growing marijuana in San Luis Obispo County

San Luis Obispo County could take the next step toward possibly implementing rules for growing medical marijuana within unincorporated areas of the county when the Board of Supervisors meets Tuesday.

In late March, the board directed staff to pursue developing new, permanent regulations governing the cultivation of medical cannabis in the county.

Under current land-use ordinances, cultivation of marijuana — medical or otherwise — isn’t a permissible use, and the supervisors would need to amend the county’s general plan and local coastal plan to permit growing of medical cannabis locally, according to county staff.

If amendments to allow cultivation are authorized Tuesday, the proposed changes would be scheduled for future public hearings before the county Planning Commission, as well as the supervisors, after environmental review and staff reports are completed.

Unlike the processing of land-use permits, the first step when considering requested changes to the general plan or land-use ordinances is for the supervisors to determine whether to initiate new legislation to change existing rules, according to county staff.

Following the approach of Monterey County, where cultivation of medical marijuana is permitted, county staff is recommending a maximum of 100 licensed marijuana grows be allowed and that the limitation be amended by the end of 2018, if the supervisors adopt rules for cultivation locally.

Additionally, staff is recommending the supervisors ban large-size cultivation licenses, and, at this point in time, it’s also suggested any proposed ordinance not include additional limitations based solely on growing approaches, such as growing indoor versus outdoor or using natural versus artificial light.

Instead, additional restrictions could be coupled with growing approaches to address local concerns, according to county staff.

Suggested setback distances mirror those in both Monterey and Santa Cruz counties ordinances, which include minimum 1,000 feet setbacks from any preschool, school, youth facility, public park, playground or recreation area, and general setbacks of 300 feet from the nearest adjacent property line.

Staff is also recommending that rules for medical marijuana dispensaries, which aren’t permitted in the coastal zone, remain the same.

California voters passed Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, allowing patients with certain diseases and conditions, and their designated caregivers, to possess and cultivate marijuana for their personal medical use through a recommendation or approval of a physician.

The supervisors meet at 9 a.m. at the County Government Center, Board Chambers, 1055 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo.

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