Santa Cruz County is rolling out significant changes to its cannabis cultivation rules as tax revenue fails to meet expectations and growers complain they are being driven out of the area by cumbersome local licensing requirements.
The slate of regulation updates is aimed at paving the way to register at least 75 cannabis growers in unincorporated Santa Cruz County within the next year. Changes include reducing permitting requirements and opening up cultivation licenses beyond the pool of hundreds of local growers who had registered with the county in 2016.
Lauded by the county’s cannabis industry, the changes were approved Tuesday by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors in a 3-2 vote. Supervisors Ryan Coonerty, John Leopold and Bruce McPherson voted in support, supervisors Zach Friend and Greg Caput dissented.
“I think this is a good move to make this ag product, if you will, viable in our county,” said McPherson, who supervises the county’s rural 5th District. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Under the new regulations, permitting requirements will be reduced for growers on commercial agricultural land — mostly concentrated in South Santa Cruz County. Outdoor growers and those using existing greenhouses on the commercial farmland will no longer be required to go through a public hearing, post notifications on the property or notify neighbors.
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