Pot hearing put off by six months

County continues to work at slow pace with cannabis rules

Cannabis plants

County supervisors Tuesday extended the window for a public hearing related to the county’s temporary cannabis cultivation ordinance.

The board’s unanimous decision gave applicants a 180-day extension for the public hearing. A future date for the hearing has yet to be determined.

In September 2016, supervisors unanimously approved a medical cannabis urgency ordinance that was supposed to halt all new cultivation operations within the county.

Medical plants under cultivation as of Sept. 27 were exempted by the ordinance with limited immunity. The exemption terminated after plants were harvested, which needed to occur before Dec. 27, 2016.

However, county staff revealed at an April meeting that applicants who’ve continued cultivation beyond the December cut-off date aren’t in violation of county code until the board determines the status of their application.

There are around 27 applicants waiting for supervisors to determine the status of their application.

A public hearing was supposed to take place at Tuesday’s meeting, but county staff requested additional time to process applications.

Deputy County Counsel Sarah Dickinson explained the holdup.

“Previously, the board had requested the hearings be set for today, but we did ask the applicants for additional information due to the lack of evidence that they had supplied in their initial applications,” Dickinson said. “We did receive some information back and that is information that we have to go through, assess and evaluate to make our determinations or recommendations to the board of supervisors.”

Additionally, Dickinson told supervisors that it would be “nearly impossible” to hold all applicant hearings on the same day.

“It would be possible to maybe put this on for a special meeting of the board of supervisors, perhaps for one full day,” she said. “Or if the board would perhaps like to split this up into groups based upon staff recommendation of ones who would probably have longer hearings due to the fact that they have more evidence to be evaluating. I’m sure they’d like to present that to you as well.”

There was confusion over how applicants with limited immunity from the temporary cannabis ordinance would be handled when the county’s permanent ordinance goes into effect.

Staff expects to have to new cannabis ordinance before the planning commission in June and the board in July, according to County Counsel Barbara Thompson.

Chairman Jaime De La Cruz expressed concern over applicants being grandfathered in with the temporary ordinance.

“If were were to do the hearings and then approve some of these requests, knowing that they don’t comply with the new ordinance we’re about to approve, they will be grandfathered in?” De La Cruz asked.

Dickinson said that would only be for the extended amortization period granted by the temporary ordinance.

“There’s no leg up here,” Dickinson said. “Because of the timing, it seems that way and I can understand there might be an appearance of that. But certainly, if you have an extended amortization, that’s for the growing period. That has nothing to do with the regulations.”

Supervisor Mark Medina asked Dickinson if San Benito County could be more strict with regulations than the state.

“On certain things, as long as the state doesn’t prohibit you from doing it,” Dickinson said.

When it came time for the board to vote, Supervisor Robert Rivas suggested staff bring back a schedule for public hearing options.

De La Cruz supported the idea.

“Let’s develop a schedule,” De La Cruz said. “We’ll pick a day and then we’ll send it to the board of supervisors to see if those days are available.”

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