Santa Cruz County: Update for Non-Retail Commercial Cannabis Businesses

Last week, Santa Cruz County hosted two public meetings to discuss the County’s path toward regulating commercial cannabis cultivation, manufacturing and distribution within the County. The County presented a good deal of information for those interested in pursuing these non-retail commercial cannabis licenses that we’ll outline in this post.
One of the most significant proposals is a recommendation that project-level environmental review be required in lieu of Board certification of the current draft Environmental Impact Review, which provided exhaustive analysis of the existing and proposed commercial cannabis industry in Santa Cruz County. This means that each future non-retail commercial cannabis license would be considered a separate project, and would be subject to discretionary land use permit review and associated environmental review based on site-specific conditions.
The County also presented a proposed final Santa Cruz County Code (SCCC) 7.128, as well as amendments to SCCC 13.10 which will serve to regulate all non-retail cannabis cultivation, manufacturing and distribution in Santa Cruz County. SCCC 7.128 will establish operational requirements for cannabis businesses as well as a cannabis licensing program. And the amendments to SCCC 13.10 will establish zoning restrictions and land use permitting requirements for cannabis businesses.
The Planning Commission will meet again on February 28th to review proposed mitigation, monitoring and reporting measures in the form of a Best Management and Operational Practices Plan (BMOP) as well as an enforcement plan. According to the County, the BMOP will address issues including use of rodenticides, grading limitations, fencing requirements, neighborhood compatibility (lighting, site screening, etc.), and biological surveys among other topics.
The following is an overview of some of the important changes to these proposed ordinances:
New canopy limits;
Co-location of licensees will be possible in all zones subject to certain limits and CLO official approval;
Master planned facilities will be possible in all zones subject to certain limits and CLO official approval;
There will be limits to activity on Timber Production zoned properties, including no more than 0.25 acres of new expansion for any cannabis-related development, land clearing or grading.
For manufacturers, the County will offer three licenses types:
Class 1: Infusions (no extractions of any kind);
Class 2: Non-volatile extractions; and
Class 3: Volatile extractions.
And the following is an overview of some of the proposed changes to the SCCC 13.10 zoning ordinance:
All cannabis activity will require a discretionary permit in addition to a license (findings must be made and conditions of approval may be attached, and permits will be processed at the same time as applications).
Wherever possible, the permit process for cannabis activity mirrors the process for similar types of non-cannabis activities.
The activity allowed and the type of permit required depends on 1) the zone district; 2) the type and scale of the activity; and 3) whether the property is urban or rural, and in or outside the Coastal zone plus a one mile buffer.
We will be following developments in Santa Cruz County closely, and expect to have more information following the Planning Commission’s meeting on February 28th. Stay tuned.

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