Last week the Monterey County Cannabis Committee met to discuss among other items, revising the outdoor cannabis cultivation pilot program. For those who have not been following the evolution of permitting outdoor cultivation grows in Monterey County as it stands there is currently a five year pilot outdoor cannabis cultivation ordinance that limits outdoor cultivation in Big Sur, Carmel Valley and Cachagua plan areas. As the ordinance is written there are certain requirements that must be met in order for an applicant to be considered eligible to operate within the pilot program. They are as follows:
1. Must provide two forms of evidence of prior cultivation
Photographs of cultivation that existed on the lot prior to January 1, 2016
Documentary evidence that cannabis was cultivated on the lot
Any other form of evidence acceptable to the Appropriate Authority
2. Must meet the following minimum setback requirements
1,000’ from a school, childcare center, youth center, playground, or drug recovery facility
50’ from any public road
500’ from nearest offsite structure
150’ from a stream, river, or watercourse
3. Limited to 10,000 square feet of canopy
4. Limited to Outdoor cultivation (not including light deprivation techniques)
The above requirements have essentially zoned all interested parties out of eligibility and as such the County has only received to applications thus far and one of the applications in outside the permitted boundaries.
In an effort to expand the program and meet the needs of the industry stakeholders, RMA presented proposed revisions to the current ordinance that would expand the requirements and allow for more individuals to submit application. The revisions presented to the Cannabis Committee are as follows:
Require one form of evidence of previous cultivation rather than two
Reduce the required setback from cultivation to the nearest offsite structure from 500 feet to 150 feet
Remove the five-year expiration date
Allow light deprivation techniques
Remove the 10,000 square foot canopy limitation and allow up to one acre on lots of ten acres or more and up to 10,000 square feet on lots between two and 10 acres
These amendments would expand the program and allow those growers who have relied on the income from their cultivation sites for years to come into the legal framework. A great deal of support was noted by the industry and also concerns by law enforcement and the district attorneys office. What is important to highlight is that the County cannot adequately assess the success of the program because no one is eligible for it as it stands.
The Supervisors have asked staff to address the proposed revisions again at the September meeting. It is critical for those who have a vested interested in the outcome to make their concerns known. The more individuals coming forward to tell their story about what not being permitted to cultivate has done to them and their families more of the needed progress to compliance can be made.
Jennifer Rosenthal is a local cannabis and criminal defense attorney. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and does not reflect an official position of the Association.