14,200 pounds of cannabis de­stroyed in SLO County

The Tribune (SLO) - - Local - BY MONICA VAUGHAN Monica Vaughan: 805-781-7930, @Mon­i­caLVaughan

Code en­force­ment of­fi­cers ripped out 7,700 cannabis plants and de­stroyed 14,200 pounds of pro­cessed buds in San Luis Obispo County in the past 10 months — and more en­force­ment ac­tions are com­ing soon, ac­cord­ing to the county Plan­ning and Building Depart­ment.

Cal­i­for­ni­ans voted to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana in 2016, and the county al­lows cul­ti­va­tion in some un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas, at least on pa­per.

Ninety-nine busi­ness own­ers ap­plied last year to be­come le­gal, le­git cannabis busi­nesses. Yet as of April, none have been fully per­mit­ted.

In the mean­time, 124 sites were or­dered to de­stroy plants and prod­uct. In cases where the own­ers didn’t com­ply, 27 war­rants were is­sued to the Sher­iff’s Of­fice and Code En­force­ment since May 2018 to de­stroy ma­te­rial.

The con­fis­ca­tions were the re­sult of a nui­sance abate­ment pro­gram meant to re­move cannabis ac­tiv­ity that has been found to be in vi­o­la­tion of the county’s cannabis code.

Cul­ti­va­tion al­lowed un­der the col­lec­tive/co­op­er­a­tive model per­mit­ted by Propo­si­tion 215 will soon be sun­set­ting, mean­ing there will likely be an in­crease in en­force­ment against or­ga­ni­za­tions not per­mit­ted by the county and state.

All of those or­dered to de­stroy plants were also charged hefty fees and fines, some of which reached $100,000 or more for large grows that cul­ti­vated past a vol­un­tary abate­ment dead­line, ac­cord­ing to a staff re­port. The Plan­ning Depart­ment in­tends to send fines to col­lec­tion to pur­sue as­sess­ment of costs against the prop­erty tax bill. But many fines re­late to sites in California Val­ley, which are not a source of re­cov­ery be­cause of the low prop­erty val­ues.

For ex­am­ple, there are cur­rently 2.5 acre parcels listed for sale there for $8,000.

OTHER CRIMES FOUND ON GROW SITES

In ad­di­tion to plants, of­fi­cers al­legedly found other crimes and vi­o­la­tions, in­clud­ing the man­u­fac­tur­ing of con­cen­trated THC oil (honey oil labs), felons in pos­ses­sion of firearms, auto theft, en­vi­ron­men­tal crimes and con­struc­tion vi­o­la­tions re­lated to use of illegal struc­tures and im­prove­ments, ac­cord­ing to Erika Schuetze, a county plan­ner.

The Sher­iff’s Of­fice and the Plan­ning Depart­ment are eval­u­at­ing op­tions for how best to re­spond to those kind of vi­o­la­tions, ac­cord­ing to a staff re­port submitted to the Board of Su­per­vi­sors for a March 26 meet­ing. So far, code en­force­ment of­fi­cers have in­spected ap­prox­i­mately 500 sites for un­law­ful cannabis.

Some of those sites be­long to or­ga­ni­za­tions work­ing through the per­mit­ting process.

An­other 124 be­came cases be­fore a new cannabis hear­ing of­fi­cer, whose job it is to hear ev­i­dence about un­law­ful cannabis op­er­a­tors and is­sue abate­ment orders out­side of the court sys­tem.

Most of the cases, by far, were in California Val­ley, ad­ja­cent to the Car­rizo Plain Na­tional Mon­u­ment, where vis­i­tors to this year’s super bloom have seen the rem­nants of aban­doned grows; squared fenc­ing and large green wa­ter tanks dot the un­de­vel­oped sub­di­vi­sion roads in the desert. So far, the only items re­moved from the grow sites un­der war­rant are cannabis plants.

Other trash and in­fra­struc­ture will be cleaned up later by the county, only af­ter co­or­di­na­tion with state and fed­eral wildlife agen­cies to en­sure com­pli­ance with pro­tected species and habi­tats codes, Schuetze said.

Here’s where un­law­ful cannabis ac­tiv­i­ties have been abated:

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