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County OKs cannabis cultivation

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors voted this week to allow commercial cannabis production—but not any medical dispensaries or retails sales— in unincorporated parts of the county.

The county resolution will require that prospective cannabis businesses obtain separate permits for each type of commercial cannabis operation. The six cannabis business permit types are cultivation, manufacturing, testing, distribution, microbusinesses and out-of-county retail.

Microbusinesses are a combination of cannabis operations that include cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and retail. Out-of-county retail sales would allow cannabis delivery services to deliver retail cannabis to customers in neighboring counties.

The ordinance will not allow cannabis dispensaries in unincorporated San Benito County, unlike the City of Hollister, which allows cannabis stores.

The supervisors voted 4-0 in favor of the resolution, with Supervisor Robert Rivas absent after assuming duties as a California State Assemblymember.

The measure had required two votes to pass; the supervisors previously approved the new ordinances 4-1, with Supervisor Jerry Muenzer casting the dissenting vote. Muenzer lost his District 4 seat to Hollister Councilmember Jim Gillio in the Nov. 6 election. Muenzer voted in favor of the ordinance the second time it came in front of the supervisors.

The City of Hollister currently allows dispensaries, cultivation, laboratory testing, distribution and delivery to storefronts. The cannabis dispensaries that would be allowed Hollister—none have opened yet—can only sell marijuana for medicinal use. The county action will have no legal impact on Hollister’s marijuana regulations.

The resolution before the supervisors applied only to the unincorporated parts of the county and is similar to ordinances passed by neighboring California counties.

Many counties were at sea when it came to regulating marijuana following the 2016 approval of Proposition 64, which legalized the sale and possession of cannabis. This led to decisions in several counties to ban cannabis sales or cultivation all together in unincorporated county areas, despite the popular vote. Proposition 64 may have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, but it gave the power to municipalities to decide if cannabis businesses could get business licenses.

The San Benito County resolution will require cannabis businesses to renew their permit every year. Employees working at cannabis businesses also need to apply for Cannabis Employee Work Permits before they’re allowed to work.

To help regulate the commercial cannabis industry in the county, the Board of Supervisors will create the Cannabis Business Regulatory Agency, to be headed by County Administrative Officer Ray Espinoza.

As Espinoza works to hire staff for the Cannabis Business Regulatory Agency, supervisors Mark Medina and Jaime de La Cruz reaffirmed that funds raised through Measure C taxes should be used to hire additional county staff.

In addition to issuing Cannabis Business Permits and Cannabis Business Work Permits, the Cannabis Business Regulatory Agency will interview applicants, apply rules and issue necessary forms, and will be empowered to add new rules and regulations.

California state law states that individuals need to be at least 21 years old to buy cannabis products or 18 years old with a doctor’s recommendation.