San Benito County supervisors took a major step toward approving a cannabis ordinance Tuesday.
Supervisors gave an initial approval to the ordinance, which allows for commercial cannabis operations but bans retail activities in unincorporated areas of the county. They will take up the matter Dec. 7 for a final approval, and the ordinance would potentially replace the current ban on all cannabis-related activities in unincorporated San Benito County in effect since late last year.
Management Analyst Dulce Alonso gave an overview of the proposed ordinance at the Tuesday meeting. One of the main points of discussion was the allowable permits for particular activities. Cultivation was the only activity that has a limit — 50 permits — among the activities allowed in the ordinance.
Other cannabis-related enterprises, such as manufacturing or distribution, did not come with permit limits.
Water was another issue, broached by Supervisor Mark Medina, and whether shared wells with neighbors might cause a problem.
“Is there anything we can put into the ordinance that states if it’s a shared water well, the individuals need to have written permission from the other people sharing the water wells?” he said.
A consultant told the board he believed that was covered adequately in the land-use portion of the ordinance.
Law enforcement and fire officials also spoke, telling the board they should consider additional staffing in those departments to help deal with cannabis activities.
“Oversight of a program of this magnitude will require, in our opinion, additional staffing at the sheriff’s office,” said Capt. Eric Taylor with the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office.
Fire Department Battalion Chief Charlie Bedolla, who handles code enforcement, said it’s a full-time job ensuring these businesses are compliant.
“I recommend we do figure out staffing to help support it,” he said.
Some supervisors commented on that prospect before the 4-1 approval, with outgoing Supervisor Jerry Muenzer dissenting.
“I don’t want to use general fund money to fill these positions, I’ll be honest with you,” Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz said, “until we know there’s going to be money available and money will come in.”
Added Supervisor Anthony Botelho: “We’re going into this in the interest of the county, to make money. We’re not trying to make money for the cannabis industry. We want to improve our staffing levels in public safety and general government. The idea is this being a revenue source.”