Unscrupulous cannabis growers hijack SLO County

OPINION by DREW VAN DUREN

An open letter to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors:

The unscrupulous cannabis hijack of the Board of Supervisor’s Dec. 17 public comment period served only to 1) avoid conforming cannabis operations with county land use codes and 2) continue disregarding the safety and impact to residential agriculture neighborhoods, homes and traditional agriculture in our county.

This scam constituted a serious abuse of the public comment period and exploited innocent farm workers and their loss of 30 jobs all in the name of their employers’ tax-free profit motives. Every business in SLO County must adhere to these laws or not do business in the county – why should cannabis grows get more time and special treatment after three years of successive extensions by the county?

Regardless, I still support the Planning Department’s proposed abeyance extension (in the Addendum to Item #41 for the Jan. 14 Board of Supervisor meeting), though with conditions.

I would remind the board of Supervisors that while this may potentially remove some bad actors, it is of minimal consolation as the county’s current Phase 2 regulations still permit pot growers to operate stench-ridden, crime-attracting enterprises next to traditional agriculture operations, rural residences, retirees, families, children, and even next to perimeter residences in our incorporated cities.

Passing the abeyance extension, in other words, still continues to allow pot farms to operate in places where they should never have been allowed to operate in the first place, a horror this Board of Supervisors imposed on our county and for which we want immediate change.

I strongly urge this board to immediately take the following actions:

1. Pass the Planning Department’s proposed abeyance extension. Include a provision that the so-called ‘good actors’ will be subject to Phase 3 ordinance changes (NOT the current Phase 2 allowances).

2. Prioritize the Phase 3 ordinance changes be adopted in an early-February BOS meeting.

3. Ensure no more permits are issued according to Phase 2 requirements
Based on real public input, include the following rules in Phase 3, even if it means so-called ‘good actors’ must discontinue operations in some instances).

4. Eliminate industrial cannabis manufacturing on agricultural zoned land.

5. Include residential dwelling units in the “sensitive receptor” definition and site restrictions.

6. Keep the cultivation of cannabis indoors, and limited to sealed ventilation, so that no odors can be detected outside the structure.

7. Require compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act by ending undue exemptions to cannabis projects.

8. Implement strict density limitations for the number of cannabis cultivation sites that may be near each other.

Please act wisely and not in the interests of cannabis cultivators whose ambitions and priorities are themselves and not the public.

Both the conformant and non-conformant cannabis operations of today have proven to be a public nuisance, danger and serious economic risk to residents and businesses in our beautiful county.

Our county deserves so much better.

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