Who’s directing SLO County’s marijuana laws?

May 19, 2017


Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles about how high-end investors, small marijuana growers and fortune hunters are battling for a place in California’s new gold/green rush.

Three San Luis Obispo County supervisors were stunned last week to read a new draft ordinance on marijuana. The draft bore almost no resemblance to the ordinance the board had directed staff to modify.

While the supervisors had assigned Assistant County Administrator Guy Savage to make a few changes to a previous draft ordinance, two  county planners, James Caruso and Brandi Cummings, took it upon themselves to produce their own version of a marijuana ordinance.

Caruso and Cummings’s draft of the marijuana ordinance appears to favor some growers while putting other marijuana enterprises out of business. Caruso and Cummings did not return several requests for comment.

Supervisor John Peschong noted the different treatment of some growers.

“Our government needs to draft ordinances that treat everyone fairly,” Peschong said. “I am against any ordinance that picks winners and losers.”

Persons looking for a windfall from California’s legal marijuana industry have come to the state from throughout the nation. Multi-million-dollar crops have led to threats, back room deals, cheating and corruption, growers complain.

In September 2016, the SLO County Board of Supervisors passed an urgency ordinance that banned new marijuana grows, but allowed growers that could prove they were cultivating as of Aug. 23, 2016 to remain. However, the grows cannot expand in size.

At that time, the board directed staff to begin working on a permanent ordinance.

On February 28, the SLO County Board of Supervisors reviewed a draft ordinance and gave direction for Savage to make changes and then to put it out for public review.

However, on May 1, Caruso and Cummings posted a revised draft ordinance which bore almost no resemblance to the earlier ordinance. The planners gave the public until May 12 to comment.

Caruso and Cummings’s draft prohibits mobile delivery services which do not have a dispensary from making deliveries. If enacted, more than 90 percent of all delivery services would be put out of business and those who win the battle to open brick and mortar stores would pick up the extra business.

Caruso and Cummings’s draft restricts cultivation on properties under 5 acres in Nipomo. That would favor several large property owners and put many of the small growers out of business.

Even though the supervisors had directed staff to write an ordinance that permits non-volatile cannabis manufacturing facilities while forbidding volatile manufacturing, Caruso and Cummings’s draft allows volatile manufacturing facilities.

On May 12, growers voiced their concerns to supervisors who were previously unaware that their directions for an ordinance had not been followed. After several supervisors brought their concerns to county administration Dan Buckshi, Buckshi said the draft ordinance would be fixed, officials said.

“This is not the direction we gave staff in a board meeting,” Compton said. “In fact, there is nothing in this draft ordinance that resembles the original draft ordinance.”

At a SLO Normal meeting Thursday evening, when asked by concerned marijuana growers about the dramatic changes from the draft directed by the SLO County Board of Supervisors and what planners created, building division supervisor Art Trinidade said several county supervisors were upset about the direction staff took in creating the latest draft.

“At least one of the legislators threw a shoe at us,” Trinidade said.

Nevertheless, Trinidade said that county staffers would not be making changes to the draft.

“It will be at the planning commission before you see any changes,” Trinidade said.

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Just another flailing money grab by our “elected servants”…

By the way how’s that 1% lumber tax working for ya?

I read staff (the tail) is trying to wag the dog (our elected). I believe this elected Board is going to change that.

After the board of supervisors directs staff on developing an ordinance, the supervisors’ direction has to be followed. If the board’s direction does not matter, why have a board.

The staffers who decided to ignore the supervisors input should be fired. The county is a mess.

The board majority needs to take their jobs seriously and clean house! This is not about making staff happy at any cost, as supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson claim, but on having staff obey regulations.

A version of this is happening all over the state. That’s why I earlier posted regarding Grover wondering which insiders and public officials will financially benefit. There’s just too much money and influence involved for there to not be massive corruption.

While they’re essentially banning the growing of pot, why not also ban tomatos, cucumbers, tobacco, hops, watermelons and other “legal” crops?

At least tax the hell out of them. Right?

Freedom means permission is required.

Legal means illegal.

Fair mean unfair.

Way too much money involved here to keep it on the up and up. Like many things that go on in this county the different staffs thru out the county and cities for the most part just do what they want. Many politicians are just there for their self adulations and as many photo ops as possible to further their political careers. Staffs and department heads are there for the long haul while the elected officials are being rotated every 2 years or so. We are lucky that we do have some people on the BOS who really get involved with the business as usual at the county level and we now have strong leaders that are standing up to the misdeeds of staff. The legalization of marijuana seems to only be the monetary benefits that governments will receive and that they will worry about the consequences that may appear in the future. But you can be sure that they will be able to manage these “unintentional consequences” with an addition fee and increase with other fees.

Understanding that we have to work within the parameters set by our State laws, the County of San Luis Obispo administrators down through all levels of staff work for our elected Board of Supervisors. I know that some staff promotes the Board members that favor their will but that too is going to change, even if they think that hiring more voters will help their cause. We have many good public servants that work for our current Board and that public benefit will be mirrored while others decide to quit. I feel this, it feels good.

And here we go….

The “I just want to smoke my weed in peace” potheads and “WOW, just think of all the tax revenue” politicians just couldn’t see through their smoke-filled delusions to how this is really going to play out. The city level politicians failed to take heed to the warnings from the DEA and others as to what would happen. Instead, welcome the ….dare I say it?…Russian Mafia to your backyard, folks. There WILL BE NO true “Mom & Pop” dispensaries. Corruption will run rampant.

“Instead, welcome the ….dare I say it?…Russian Mafia to your backyard, folks. There WILL BE NO true “Mom & Pop” dispensaries. Corruption will run rampant.”

Precisely- very well stated, Bob. The dopey clowns who fell for all that popular pot propaganda have given us the framework of an unprecedented criminal nightmare from which there will be no easy escape. The corruption will extend through every level of government and regulatory agency.

Perfect immediate example: the Board of Supervisors can threaten to fire those staff members, but the mafia-types that Bob has referred to can threaten physical harm. Which do you think the staff members would fear the most? And remember, total government corruption includes the law enforcement agencies and judicial system, so don’t count on them to keep things in order.

Money, threats and violence are the backbone of organized crime. And the marijuana business offers a whole lot of money to those who are most determined to get it.

Good luck, folks. Hope it was all worth it to you.

The Mafia does not operate WITHIN highly regulated environments, they operate outside of them. So whatever rules that are created will not affect them.

Do you really think Russian mobsters would try to affect planning policy by threatening these people?

I believe you’re confusing the Mafia and Russian Mobsters with Big Tobacco or other huge corporate interests that want to fill this void. It will be the legal capitalists that move in on this industry–not organized crime.

They’re similar in nature–but are different animals altogether.

The Mafia types will move onto other things from Pot if the money dries up–(caused by over supply do to deregulation).

-until the regulatory environment over taxes the marijuana industry–as it appears it is ready to do.

Which would then create the type of environment for the Mafia operate in. They exploit illegal and over taxed products.

This issue with these planners is “good ole boy” influence of our normal local power brokers–not organized crime.

Mom and Pop outfits, and backyard growers everywhere, will keep us safe from organized crime moving into our county. The County planners just want to give the new marketplace away to big business–but that is not new.

We the people need to tell the legislature “This is what we want” stop letting these elected officials tell us what to do! They are elected to “represent” does not dictate to us what THEY can benefit from.

Why the hell the county would allow Caruso to work on such important legislation is beyond common sense. Anyone who has worked with him knows his attitude is: “It’s my way or the highway”. This person is a poor collaborator and feels his views are more important than anyone else.