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Outdoor Grow vs. Retail Setback

A very hot topic in our industry that is facing the County is a proposed amendment to Title 21 removing the 1500 foot setback requirement between cannabis retail/dispensary facilities and establishing “exceptions” that, if met, would allow a retail shop to open within 1500 feet from another previously established permitted retail facility. This issue has gone before the Planning Commission on two separate occasions, has been discussed at length at th standing ad hoc cannabis committee meeting and is going before the Board of Supervisors shortly. This issue affects three applicants who would like to open a retail facility within 1500 feet from another one and the amount of time and resources spent on the issue has been tremendous. However, the outdoor growers in Carmel Valley and Big Sur are still not getting the attention they deserve.

In July 2016 Monterey County enacted a moratorium prohibiting new cannabis operations from the beginning. From this point on, the County has effectively banned all outdoor cannabis cultivation. This means that the dozens of families in Carmel Valley and Big Sur who have grown cannabis under Proposition 215 and SB 420 since 1996 can no longer legally operate. Their family businesses have been shut down, their financial income has ceased, their livelihood has been usurped from them by the actions of Monterey County. Why are we worried about three retail shops?

My question is why are the outdoor growers in Carmel Valley and Big Sur not getting the attention they deserve? This issue needs to be addressed by the Board of Supervisors before we amend an ordinance where a setback requirement has not had the time to be tested against the effect of the legalization of recreational/adult use cannabis. The setback was created to preserve our communities and not overpopulate sensitive areas with cannabis retail facilities. From a land use perspective, this makes sense. From a public safety perspective, this makes sense. What is the rationale behind banning outdoor cultivation? The economic hardship caused by this regulatory scheme will have long-term effects on our communities and will trickle down to our local economy. It is time to listen to the dozens of individuals who have spoken publicly over the last two years and address the ban on outdoor grows.

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.

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