The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors today approved an ordinance allowing mixed-light (greenhouse) cannabis cultivation in the unincorporated areas and prohibiting for another year all other commercial cannabis-related activities.

If approved by the Board at its second reading on Dec. 12, 2017, the County will only issue licenses for mixed-light cultivation and greenhouse nursery cultivation in areas designated “agriculture” by the County General Plan or on land with documented agriculture use for at least three prior years. All parcels proposed for cultivation must also be set back a minimum of 1,000 feet from residential parcels, schools, youth centers, playgrounds and alcohol or drug treatment facilities.

After final approval, the ordinance allowing greenhouse cultivation takes effect Jan. 12, 2018. However, the Planning Department anticipates being ready to begin processing applications on Jan. 2, 2018.

The ordinance also requires comprehensive application requirements, including criminal background checks; record-keeping policies; and regulations including odor control and ventilation, noise, lighting and hazardous materials. Failure to comply will carry fines up to $5,000 and the possible suspension or revocation of the licensee’s right to engage in commercial cultivation activities within the county.

“By approving a tightly controlled ordinance for commercial cannabis cultivation, the Board of Supervisors will be supporting our local growers. I don’t foresee any material community impact. It seems this a very vigorous, rigorous and well thought out ordinance,” said Board President Don Horsley.

As part of its actions today, the Board also extended the prohibition for a year on personal outdoor cultivation on the grounds of a private residence and on all commercial medical cannabis activity.

Horsley emphasized that the moratoriums 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.

“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. 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,” Horsley said.

In December 2016, the Board of Supervisors first enacted a temporary moratorium on all commercial cannabis uses so that staff could study how or if the County could implement Proposition 64, the statewide voter-approved law legalizing the use. The County also hoped to work with its cities on uniform regulations but several have since passed their own ordinances governing cannabis.

During the past year, County staff have held regular workgroup meetings involving multiple departments including Agriculture, Planning & Building, Environmental Health and the Health System. Several community meetings and presentations were also held to give residents opportunities to learn more about the draft ordinance’s details, ask questions and submit comments.

The draft ordinance, copy of the temporary moratorium and related documents are available online at http://cmo.smcgov.org/cannabis-ordinance.

Frequently asked questions about Proposition 64’s implications for local businesses and licensing is available at http://www.smchealth.org/marijuana.