Cannabis hides in plain sight in SLO County

March 8, 2021


The signs around the field of budding cannabis plants growing in rural San Miguel say the grow is part of a legitimate and legal research project. And, neighbors believe the plants are part of a permitted Cal Poly hemp research program. But the grow is not.

The site is not registered with the county. Research hemp farms require a county registration and need to follow county regulations such as not utilizing lights in hoop houses and having at least a 400-acre parcel, said Marc Lea, SLO County’s assistant agricultural commissioner.

It’s not clear whether the cannabis plants are marijuana or hemp.

If they are marijuana plants, the rules are much more strict.

The property owner, Jeannot Nahmias, told CalCoastNews that the cannabis plants growing in hoop houses on his property belong to him. He offered to pay the reporter when she asked about his failure to register the grow.

“What do you want from me?” Nahmias asked. “Do you want me to pay you? I pay you. I pay you.”

After he was told that reporters aren’t bought, Nahmias denied he was growing cannabis. He later called back, and then handed the phone to a woman who threatened to take legal action against CalCoastNews, alleging harassment, and then repeated Nahmias’ assertion that there was no cannabis growing on the property.

The 81-acre parcel on Estrella Road in rural Santa Miguel includes multiple vineyards that surround a home as well as the cannabis plants. While neighbors have voiced concerns with the odors from the grow, calls to the county have gone unanswered. Some neighbors have taken the lack of action as proof that the grow is part of a legal research project.

The sign posted at the gate of Nahmias’ property says the property is hemp research through the California Hemp Foundation, which has been suspended by the state of California.

Wayne Richman, operator of California Hemp Foundation, told the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on June 19, 2018, that hemp growers could operate legally under the umbrella of his foundation. For a fee, growers could sign up with Richman and be able grow without oversight, such as not requiring county testing to check THC content, which is required for hemp.

Both hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants. But hemp has 0.3 percent or less THC, the intoxicant in cannabis, and usually sells for about one-fourth the price. Last year, the hemp market was saturated, with most local industrial hemp growers unable to sell their crop.

“We are the good partners you are looking for to conduct research in your community – a statewide umbrella for research,” Richman said in 2018. “We are set up in fact to be that legal exemption per state law to help the farmers engage in legitimate research. We have been transparent since day one with every government agency.”

Hemp grown in 2018 and 2019 under a legitimate research hemp program was not tested to ensure it was hemp and not marijuana. But that exemption ended a year ago. Even so, there were no hemp grows, including the Estrella Road address, registered with the county agricultural department through Richman’s foundation.

The sign posted at the gate of Nahmias’ property provides Richman’s website and a local phone number. Richman did not return multiple requests for comment.

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Doesn’t the County have a team of highly paid code enforcement officers and Sheriff deputies assigned only to cannabis and hemp enforcement?

AS far as Hemp? It should be growing on every open field! So many uses, such a fantasic renewable source. No one should have to bother with a permit for hemp. But this poor guy panicked! Must not have been “Hemp”.

I don’t trust any in that industry. Corruption reigns in the money and politics of this disgraceful and debased cannabis garbage.

Research farm has a nice ring but the research is to see what they can get away with.

Richman is that actually his real name or a name he choose to use as he played a scam on the folks who paid him money and the charade he/they played for all the onlookers ?? Seems as if Richman is guilty of fraud …When discussing anything marijuana the defenders no matter how illegal the activity involved was , are users or related to users of marijuana….Non-users of mariuanna sit back and observe the long term effects of marijuana such as odd or psychotic behavior etc etc ….Todays marijuana is not your uncles or grandparents maryjane it is very potent and destructive to the mind no matter how much it is allegedly tested …Maybe Maldonado needs to contact Richman or whatever his name is

This feels like agenda driven vindictiveness. I don’t know why you guys hate cannabis so much. Let it go. The Nancy Reagan attitude and after school special level of sophistication you have on this is is a bad look and betrays all your worst attributes. It’s hard to take anything else you do seriously

I don’t think most folks care about marijuana. They care about people who don’t pay their fair share of taxes by shirking the rules.

Oh no, not another political slant to a story with zero political relevance. (I didnt inhale, made Monica nervous). But I digress….

To me it just underscores the truths that surround the industry. It wasn’t too long ago anyone who even expressed concerns about grows next door to, or near, their property were vilified as being paranoid, prude, out of touch. It is what it is and like it or not its not the same as having another crop growing… Maybe in time it’ll get there but for now it should have specific parameters where it can be grown, size of the area, and have some sort of accountability. Obviously this particular grow isn’t on the up and up and like most things, it’s not what’s under the canopies but the people involved.

I wonder if Ms. Velie has a recording of this alleged bribe. If she doesn’t, then it comes down to a simple case of “He said, she said,” and this story, like most of this journalist’s stories, will go nowhere.