San Benito County is Open for Cannabis Business

On Wednesday, December 11th, 2018, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors passed a series of ordinances to allow certain commercial cannabis activities in the unincorporated area of San Benito County. This culmination of more than two years of work creates a framework for the counties’ prior existing cannabis business and new operators to apply for permits and entitlements to operate both medical and adult use cannabis businesses in San Benito County.

The board attempted to pass a commercial cannabis business ordinance in 2017, only to end up banning all commercial cannabis activities pending the results of Measure C, an initiative measure regarding the taxation of cannabis businesses. Measure C was approved by voters in November of 2017 by 58% of the vote, effectively setting up a tax structure and foundation from which the Board of Supervisors could craft regulatory ordinances for cannabis business operations in the county.

The three ordinances passed on Wednesday amend San Benito County’s code to create cannabis business regulations (Ordinance 974), land use (Ordinance 975), and related zoning (Ordinance 976) regulations.

Ordinance 974 – Cannabis Businesses

Ordinance 974 amends Chapter 7.02 of the San Benito County code to authorize cannabis business operations for nursery, cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, microbusiness (non-retail), and testing operations. Outdoor cannabis cultivation is specifically prohibited, with all cultivation required to occur indoors, or in mixed light structures like greenhouses. Additionally, Ordinance 974 prohibits all cannabis retail operations, with the exception of delivery services originating from outside San Benito County.

Under the ordinance, cannabis permits are unlimited with the exception of cultivation type permits, such as cultivation and nursery. Any limited permit is usually limited 50 permits. This is of important note that unlike other cannabis permits like manufacturing, testing, and retail permits, cannabis cultivation permits are limited by square footage and cannabis operators generally require multiple permits to attain the requisite cultivation square footage necessary for their operations.

Ordinance 975 – Cannabis Business Land Use Regulations

Ordinance 975 amends Chapter 19 of the San Benito County code to create land use regulations regarding cannabis businesses, with all cannabis business activities permitted only upon the application and approval of a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), and in the Agricultural Productive (AP), Agricultural Rangeland (AR), Controlled Manufacturing (CM), Light Industrial (M-1) and Heavy Industrial (M-2) zones as follows in this helpful informational table:

The ordinance further prescribes general setback requirements providing that a cannabis business must be less than 100 feet from their own property boundary lines, excluding industrial zones, 1,000 feet from sensitive use parcels, and no closer than 300 feet from any residentially zoned parcel.

The ordinance also provides for a variance procedure for consideration of modification to these setback provisions, but any variance application shall not be granted to reduce the sensitive use setback requirement any less than 600 feet from any sensitive use or to reduce the off-parcel residence setback requirement any less than 100 feet from any off-parcel residence, if the cannabis business facility is located on a parcel that is 10 acres or less.

Ordinance 976 – Cannabis Business Zoning Regulations

Ordinance 976 amends Chapter 25 of the San Benito County code to create zoning regulations related to cannabis business operations and specifically allowed for the following activities in the following zones:

  • Agricultural Productive (AP): Cultivation of commercial cannabis (mixed-light and indoor, including nurseries).
  • Agricultural Rangeland (AR): Cultivation of commercial cannabis (mixed-light and indoor, including nurseries).
  • Controlled Manufacturing (CM): Cultivation of commercial cannabis (mixed-light and indoor, including nurseries), distribution of commercial cannabis and/or cannabis products, manufacturing of cannabis and/or cannabis products, laboratory testing of commercial cannabis and/or cannabis products and microbusiness for commercial cannabis (excluding retail activity).
  • Light Industrial (M-1): Cultivation of commercial cannabis (mixed-light and indoor, including nurseries), distribution of commercial cannabis and/or cannabis products, manufacturing of cannabis and/or cannabis products, laboratory testing of commercial cannabis and/or cannabis products and microbusiness for commercial cannabis (excluding retail activity).
  • Heavy Industrial (M-2): Cultivation of commercial cannabis (mixed-light and indoor, including nurseries), distribution of commercial cannabis and/or cannabis products, manufacturing of cannabis and/or cannabis products, laboratory testing of commercial cannabis and/or cannabis products and microbusiness for commercial cannabis (excluding retail activity).

Opening of Application Period

The Board did not set forth or discuss a timeframe for the county to open its permitting process and start accepting cannabis business license applications. If other local jurisdictions’ cannabis licensing process are any indication of a timeline, it should be in early February 2019. This will provide the county with time to prepare application forms and procedures for implementing the new cannabis licensing and preparing county staff regarding the same.

Author: Peter Brazil

Do you have question about cannabis business licenses and the related laws? You can call(831) 228-5619 to connect with JRG Attorneys at Law. Our lawyers are well-versed in a number of legal practices with a focus on licensing and regulations. To get an initial consultation, contact us at any time.

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