It will soon be OK to grow marijuana for commercial purposes in unincorporated San Mateo County if it's grown in a greenhouse, according to an ordinance given preliminary approval Dec. 5 by the Board of Supervisors.
Under the ordinance, growers must get a license from the county, which will permit them to grow the marijuana on unincorporated land that is either zoned for or commonly used for agriculture. Applicants must pass a criminal background check.
There are also regulations on odor control, noise, lighting and hazardous materials – and fines of up to $5,000 for failure to comply.
If the supervisors give final approval to the ordinance, scheduled for Dec. 12, the regulations would go into effect Jan. 12, 2018. The county Planning Department, however, plans to start processing applications on Jan. 2.
Marijuana cultivation sites must be at least 1,000 feet from residences, schools, youth centers, playgrounds and alcohol or drug treatment centers.
The Board of Supervisors also extended to Dec. 12, 2018, temporary moratoriums on commercial activity related to medical marijuana and on personal outdoor cultivation in neighborhoods located on unincorporated land. (With the November 2016 passage of Proposition 64, state law allows personal cultivation of up to six plants indoors.)
"By approving a tightly controlled ordinance for commercial cannabis cultivation, the Board of Supervisors will be supporting our local growers," board President Don Horsley says in the statement. "I don't foresee any material community impact. It seems this (is) a very vigorous, rigorous and well thought out ordinance."
"We have heard a lot of feedback from the public on both sides of the issues and I want to thank the residents who took the time to make their voices heard," he says. "The implementation of Proposition 64 is an evolving issue, especially as the state determines how it will craft its own governance, and the County will continue evolving with it. Today’s actions by the Board give us the ability to do that."
Mr. Horsley says the moratoriums on commercial medical marijuana and personal outdoor cultivation give the county "more time to study whether to allow other types of cultivation and should not be seen as a definitive leaning toward long-term prohibition."
A moratorium on all commercial cultivation on unincorporated land has been in effect since December 2016.
The county tried working with cities on uniform regulations but several have passed their own ordinances. Woodside and Menlo Park, for example, have enacted moratoriums on outdoor and commercial cultivation and sales.
Portola Valley has been a notable exception. The Town Council on Oct. 25 rejected a staff recommendation for a moratorium on retail sales of marijuana in town and outdoor cultivation, whether for personal or commercial use.