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Cannabis farm approved near Carrizo Plain

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Three acres of cannabis cultivation near the Carrizo Plain and California Valley cleared an appeal on Sept. 13 in a rare unanimous vote from the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors supporting a challenged cannabis project.

Local environmental activist Patrick McGibney appealed the 3-acre outdoor grow approved last year by a county planning officer. Proposed by Greenview LLC, the farm would be sited on a 40-acre parcel located about four miles from the California Valley.

APPROVING PROJECTS? The SLO County Board of Supervisors gave rare unanimous support to a proposed cannabis farm near the Carrizo Plain on Sept. 13. - FILE PHOTO BY DYLAN HONEA-BAUMAN
  • File Photo By Dylan Honea-Bauman
  • APPROVING PROJECTS? The SLO County Board of Supervisors gave rare unanimous support to a proposed cannabis farm near the Carrizo Plain on Sept. 13.

Speaking to the board about his appeal, McGibney focused largely on the water supply challenges in the Carrizo Plain and said the county needs to more thoroughly study the groundwater there before approving cannabis projects. He also highlighted impacts to nearby sensitive habitats for endangered species, like the fairy shrimp.

"Long-lasting droughts driven by climate change means that groundwater likely has never been more scarce in the Carrizo Plain than it is today," McGibney said. "It was a huge mistake for the vineyards to take over and deplete groundwater basins throughout the county—please don't make the same mistake for cannabis."

But 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold—who typically supports appeals against cannabis projects—opposed the appeal and said that there are other cannabis farms in the same general area as Greenview's. She noted that the grower is obligated to use less than 2.24 acre-feet per year of water.

"I've said it many times, I've always been appreciative that we have the discretion to review neighborhood compatibility, [but in this case] there already have been established grows right in that stretch," Arnold said.

With 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton absent, the board voted 4-0 to deny the appeal and approve the project.

Later in the same meeting, the Board of Supervisors approved a new fee schedule for county cannabis applicants that officials said will generate an additional $1.3 million in revenue. That revenue is largely needed to fund a sheriff's cannabis compliance team that will have five new employees.

The fee increases sparked a larger conversation about the struggling state of the county's cannabis industry. While 3rd District Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg ultimately voted in favor of the fees, she said the county's cumbersome process is driving growers away and called for reforms to the regulations.

"The reason why the cannabis industry isn't here is that they've given up," Ortiz-Legg said. "We're basically going to kill an industry." Δ

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