Did 1st District Supervisor John Peschong just save the SLO County cannabis industry? Is up down, black white, wet dry? What kind of topsy-turvy world are we living in? On Aug. 18, Peschong voted against his perpetual allies, 4th District Supe Lynn Compton and 5th District Supe Debbie Arnold, who voted to approve amendments to the cannabis ordinance that could potentially end cultivation entirely.
"I'm not a supporter or a user," Peschong announced, as if we didn't know, nerd! But he also said, "Even in my district, which tends to be fairly conservative, 57 percent of the people in my community voted to support cannabis," and, "We set these [original] rules up [that the new amendments would change], let's see how [our original ordinance] shakes out."
Good grief, man. You sound so fair and reasonable! Are you sure you're not high right now? Even 2nd District Supe Bruce Gibson was shocked.
"I find myself in a very interesting position of agreeing and disagreeing with Supervisor Peschong," Gibson said. "Your opinion is not to move any of these amendments forward today. I could go through point by point. On the whole, I agree with you because of the substantial harm that many of the potential amendments would cause."
"I agree with you." How freaking hard was it for Gibson to choke out those words?
The new amendments' very worst idea—the industry-killing one—was to limit the number of permits to 141 and have no renewal possible if a reapplication permit is denied. In other words, if a permit is withdrawn or denied, the new limit is 140, and then 139, and so on.
"It is important to note that this would over time reduce the total number of cannabis operations in existence and potentially phase out cannabis activities all together over time," read a June 25 county staff report.
Other amendments on the table included 1,500-foot setbacks, a ban on outdoor grows, ventilation systems for indoor grows, no hoop houses for drying, and no manufacturing on ag land. I mean, it's not like they let vineyards make and bottle wine on ag land, right? Double standard much? Sheesh! There are 89 applications currently languishing in the Planning Department, some in process for more than a year, and these new rules would have forced many of them to change plans they'd already invested significant money in.
Also, can we all take a deep breath and get a little perspective for a second! Currently there are only six fully permitted operators cultivating under the county's ordinance. Six! That's it! You haven't even given your ordinance a chance to work and you're already trying to change it!
For her part, Arnold seemed downright gleeful at the idea of kneecapping the cannabis industry.
"I have been waiting for these amendments to come around for a long time," she said, before chronicling the many arguments against cannabis grows. "Not just odor. Oftentimes it's just creating big projects with lots of people."
Isn't it weird that pro-business types like Arnold suddenly become anti-business when the business is marijuana? Suddenly a big project with lots of employed people is bad. Arnold was all in on new limitations and regulations, as was Compton, who suggested the newly proposed onerous burdens to the industry may not be enough.
"There is no science behind [grow setbacks]," Compton complained. "I wish we did have science on that. Nobody can seem to tell me that. I'm not sure that 1,500 feet is going to be the magic number, but nobody from our planning staff or anything else I've looked at can tell me."
Maybe instead of a quarter mile it should be half a mile, or how about a mile, Lynn?
Look, here's the truth. Creston has a stick up its arse. Most of the complaints called into the supes' meeting came from Creston, Debbie's district, and the callers seem to be reading off the same script: Make Creston a "cannabis-free zone" and only allow cannabis grows inside an "industrial center" (read warehouses somewhere far, far away).
I know you and Debbie are probably really mad at John right now for voting against you. Why don't you three get together and smoke the peace pipe? Because whatever John's been smoking, you two ladies should imbibe of it deeply.
Oh, and good news on the COVID-19 front. Paso Robles City Councilmember Fred Strong, who doesn't want the council to "become 'Big Brother' again and go too far overboard" in regulating people's behavior, has figured out why Paso is the county's hotbed of infections. It's not because generally conservative Paso Robles doesn't believe in this "scandemic" and isn't interested in useless masks that don't match their MAGA hats. Nope, it's all the uneducated beaners.
Responding to a public comment made by Yessenia Echevarria, founder of the grassroots organization Mujeres de Exito (which translates to "Women of Success"), that the outreach to Spanish and Indigenous-language speakers has been unsuccessful, Strong said, "And if people aren't educated, and I appreciate the young lady [Echevarria] who spoke from the Hispanic organization, we do have to get this out in Hispanic. We have to get this out to the people who are being most affected."
You have to get this out "in Hispanic"? No hablo Hispanic, bro. Δ
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