We expected 1st District San Luis Obispo County Supervisor John Peschong to disavow himself of his assertion that he "owned" SLO County's cannabis ordinance. Instead, Mr. Peschong further entrenched himself and stated at the Sept. 19 Templeton Area Advisory Group (TAAG) meeting, "For me, it's a property rights question ... . Everybody has the rights on their property, but your property rights end at your property line and somebody else's property rights start."
The Paso Robles Press further elaborated, "Peschong told the crowd that light, smell, and sound nuisances are driving the neighbor-to-neighbor conflict in the community, also noting there is an overall concern for water use."
Two key takeaways are that Peschong is espousing misleading notions of property rights and that he unduly characterizes the next-door cannabis problem as a "neighbor-to-neighbor conflict."
Mr. Peschong clearly does not distinguish cause from effect. He blames his constituents for their seeming inability to get along with proposed cannabis producers next door. We remind readers of last Spring's York Mountain cannabis appeal hearing in which Mr. Peschong dismissed and trivialized his constituents' objections to the proposed cannabis farm. Instead, he conveniently chalked up the controversy to a neighbor-to-neighbor conflict.
The truth is plain and simple. Mr. Peschong simply has not admitted that the failures of SLO County's cannabis ordinance are rooted in the specifics of how it permits industrial emissions next to homes and business, introduces unmitigated security risks to neighbors, fails to preserve neighborhood character, and offers no enforcement assurances. Instead, he trivializes the conflict as a mere homegrown neighbor conflict, a strange tactic given how many of the proposed grows originate from out-of-state corporations and shell companies using local grow sites as a "home address."
Regarding Mr. Peschong's property rights comment above: This type of jade's trick is understandable but squashes any substantive discussion of the issues. If everyone's property rights ended at their property line, why on earth would SLO's cannabis ordinance include a 300-foot setback between the cannabis and the neighboring property? It would appear the ordinance has stripped the cannabis grower's property rights within his or her property line.
Off topic, perhaps someone in county planning can substantiate how it arrived at a 300-foot setback requirement when cannabis odors can drift? Many residents we have spoken with in SLO and Santa Barbara counties report smelling this stuff from several thousand feet away.
For reasons of compatibility, a swine farm is the closest comparison we have to a marijuana or hemp farm. SLO County appropriately restricts hog ranches in its Hog Ranch Ordinance.
"The raising or keeping of more than three sows, a boar, and their unweaned litter is subject to the same standards that are required of beef and dairy feedlots," the ordinance states. "A hog ranch shall be located no closer than 1 mile from any residential category; and no closer than 1,000 feet from any school, or dwelling other than those on the site."
Clearly, our residents' homes are treated as sensitive receptors in the hog farm ordinance, so why would Mr. Peschong or anyone in county planning turn a blind eye to residents when dealing with something so similar? Even the SLO County Planning Commission last May issued a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors to protect residences as sensitive receptors. No action resulted. In fact, a delegate at the Sept. 19 TAAG meeting even asked Mr. Peschong for his opinion on outdoor grows. His response: "location." If Mr. Peschong's opinion on outdoor cannabis growing is location-dependent, then it makes even less sense why he fails to unequivocally deny outdoor grows near homes.
Any property rights inconveniences Mr. Peschong and others levied on industrial pot farmers pale in comparison to the diminished rights of others in the neighborhood. If readers are curious what "property rights up to the property line" looks like with cannabis, look no farther than Santa Barbara County. Residents, vineyards, and wineries are facing a regional catastrophe thanks to a couple of cannabis-enamored supervisors placing virtually no constraints on cannabis producers.
Mr. Peschong, along with Supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton, are the ones to make this right because Supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson clearly will not.
Why else do residents and traditional agriculture need protections? Cannabis producers here will no doubt attempt to both increase the number of permits allowed in the county (currently at 141) and the size of each. In fact, this past June, they scored a boost in their allowed acreage by whining that the initial 3-acre limit didn't allow them enough "walkway space." Now they get 3.75 acres. What's next?
This gets us to the heart of the situation, namely that cannabis cultivation is fundamentally and innately incompatible with homes and businesses in rural, agricultural areas. Napa County supervisors came to this conclusion in September, with one supervisor even stating, "There is no place in the state of California where we can point to a county ordinance that works." Clearly, Napa administrators evaluated, understood, and took prudent action against the threats cannabis cultivation posed to residents, wine businesses, and Napa's overall brand.
Supervisor Peschong needs to understand that the impacts of this cannabis ordinance constitute a serious threat to his constituents, and the chorus is getting louder. District 1 will be watching how he votes and decides on cannabis projects and any proactive actions he takes on cannabis issues between now and March 2020. We cannot understate that he must implement the following immediately:
1. Do not approve even one more pot farm next to homes or businesses.
2. Immediately introduce a motion in the Board of Supervisors to implement a moratorium on the issuance of all cannabis/hemp permits. Follow Napa's lead because they got it right.
Any changes to the ordinance must only be addressed during this moratorium, and only with extensive public review, insight, and input. Δ
The SLO Cannabis Watch Group invites you to write your SLO County supervisor if you want the cannabis ordinance changed. New Times invites you to write a letter to the editor if you are miffed by this opinion piece—or if you agree with it. We'd love to publish it. Send your thoughts to email@example.com.