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Hundreds of marijuana growers register with SLO County

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Pressured by a Nov. 18 deadline, 417 marijuana cultivators have submitted applications to register their grows with SLO County, with a majority of those applications coming from the California Valley.

Medical marijuana cultivators were required to register thanks to an urgency ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 20, which was crafted to address an influx of pot grows in the remote Cal Valley.

Initially considering a total ban on larger-scale pot cultivation, the Board of Supervisors compromised to allow existing grows to continue if cultivators could prove they were growing before Aug. 23 and limits new cultivation sites to only six plants per patient for up to 30 plants. Both types of grows are required to register with the county.

For a period of time the registration process seemed tenuous, since by Oct. 26 only a dozen grows had registered and many expressed reluctance to come forward. But as the Nov. 18 deadline approached, hundreds of applications poured in to the county’s Planning and Building Department.

Now that the registration window for existing cultivators has closed, code inspectors with SLO County and the Sheriff’s Office will inspect each applicant’s grow to verify that it complies with the ordinance and building code.

While SLO County Code Enforcement Officer Art Trinidade told New Times his department is “being as liberal as possible in our interpretation of what constitutes an existing cultivation,” he said a number of applicants are fraudulently claiming to be existing, and those will be rejected upon review.

“We’re receiving reports that people have desperately been putting in cultivations, hoping to convince us that they’re existing,” Trinidade said. 

Another issue going forward is whether cultivators are complying with state medical marijuana regulations, like if a larger-scale operation is exceeding the maximum number of plants allowed per patient.

“We’re letting the experts at Sheriff’s department evaluate that,” Trinidade said.

SLO County’s urgency ordinance may appear odd amid Proposition 64’s passage, which legalized recreational marijuana in the state. The county says the urgency ordinance is a merely a stopgap until a permanent ordinance is crafted that will address both recreational and medical marijuana.

Of the 417 grows registered, the majority—331—originated from the county’s 5th District, which envelopes Cal Valley, Atascadero, and Santa Margarita.

“I really appreciate people stepping forward because that’s putting a lot of faith in the system,” 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold told New Times. “Now that we have a legal commodity we’re dealing with, my goal is, when people invest their money in legal business, we don’t change the rules on it. I hope to avoid that.”

Thirty-eight grows come from the 4th District’s Arroyo Grande, Nipomo, and the surrounding rural areas; 29 are in the 1st District, encompassing Templeton, Paso Robles, San Miguel, Shandon, and the surrounding rural areas; 12 are in the North Coast’s 2nd District; and seven are in Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, SLO City, and Edna Valley of the 3rd District.

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