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Nipomo dispensary appealed to SLO County Supervisors

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Will Nipomo be the home of SLO County’s only brick-and-mortar medical marijuana dispensary? Looks like that decision will be up to the five members of the SLO County Board of Supervisors.

A Nipomo resident filed an appeal to the county Planning Commission’s July 9 vote to approve a minor use permit for mobile medical marijuana company Ethnobotanica to set up a retail location at a 2,600-square-foot location at 2122 Hutton Road. The appeal included letters from Nipomo residents and Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino asking the supervisors to deny the permit. Many of them raised concerns that the business would lead to an increase in crime and be dangerous for the small unincorporated town in the county’s southern region.

“We don’t need this,” James Bigelow, the Nipomo resident who filed the appeal, said. “Federally, [marijuana] is illegal, and I don’t want any illegal business in my neighborhood.”

In her letter, Patino said the dispensary would be an unfair strain on Santa Maria law enforcement due to Nipomo’s location near then Santa Barbara county line.

“Allowing a target for violent crime to be built so far from SLO County’s current patrols but so close to Santa Maria would be irresponsible as it would likely place a burden upon Santa Maria Police and the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department,” Patino wrote.

Many of those same arguments were made to the planning commissioners but weren’t enough to sway them against permit approval. Only one of the four commissioners present at the meeting, Jim Harrison—from the 4th District, which includes Nipomo—voted against it. As part of its permit, Ethnobotanica provided a detailed security plan for the location, which will include indoor and outdoor cameras, as well as an on-site security guard who will be posted at the store for 10 hours a day, seven days a week.

Attorney Louis Koory with the Mission Law Center, which represents Ethnobotanica, said the concerns raised in the appeals, as well as the letters and other documents included with it, were already voiced.

“There’s nothing new in the appeal,” Koory said. “All those documents were reviewed by the Planning Commission.”

Still, those opposing Ethnobotanica may have better luck making their case to the county supervisors, who have historically sided with keeping such businesses from opening brick-and-mortar locations in the past. The board voted to deny minor use permits for dispensaries on appeal in 2008 and 2012 and upheld denial of a permit for another in 2010.

Koory said that Ethnobotanica’s permit application stood on its own merits, and couldn’t be compared to those that failed in the past.

“I doubt that any other application for a minor use permit has recieved this much scrutiny,” he said.

Bigelow said he wasn’t sure how the supervisors would vote this time, but remained firm in his opposition to the project.

“This is not right for us,” he said. “This is not what we want.”

As of July 28, the appeal is tentatively set for early October. 

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