The County is preparing an update to its cannabis ordinance, initially adopted in 2017, based on a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of the ordinance and consideration of concerns raised by existing license holders operating in the unincorporated County.
The existing cannabis ordinance creates a discretionary licensing program and limits the potential locations where commercial cannabis activities may occur based on the General Plan land use designation/historical agricultural use of the property and based on proximity to sensitive land uses. Because the County’s issuance of cannabis licenses is discretionary, CEQA compliance is considered for each license application. In addition, the cannabis ordinance does not directly authorize any new physical development, such as construction of new greenhouses, or expansion of existing greenhouse complexes. Any new development needed to facilitate cannabis cultivation would require discretionary permits and review prior to issuance of any cannabis license. The proposed ordinance changes would not alter these program features.
Proposed ordinance changes include removing the canopy limit that was imposed on each owner of a license, allowing licensed cultivators to distribute their product between licensees instead of relying solely on a third party, and eliminating the requirement that cannabis licensees maintain non-cannabis production that may have existed in June of 2017. Other less substantive changes are intended to improve the program’s regulatory effectiveness and streamline implementation. Overall, staff anticipates that the ordinance amendments may increase the amount of cannabis cultivated by a given licensee at a particular location and may reduce obstacles to cannabis cultivation on parcels not currently engaged in cannabis farming. The precise extent to which the amendments may facilitate expansion of cannabis cultivation depends on a number of factors and is speculative at this time. Features of the existing and proposed ordinance (including location restrictions, setbacks, and discretionary review process) and otherwise applicable County land use regulations (including permit review processes for new development) is expected to continue to significantly limit the scope of cannabis cultivation in the County and ensure review of all cannabis licenses and associated development on a case-by-case basis.
This IS/ND analyzes, at a programmatic level, the potential environmental impacts that might result from the proposed amended ordinance, as compared to the existing conditions under the existing ordinance. See Attachment A showing all proposed ordinance modifications.