Cannabis County ordinance to waive permit requirements for home growers


EL CENTRO — Residents living in the unincorporated areas of Imperial County will not have to acquire a building permit to grow cannabis at home for recreational use, the Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday during their general meeting. The Board had previously indicated growers needed to apply for permits and meet various specifications, but after state experts warned that many growers would ignore the permitting process and the enforcement of such a requirement would be difficult.

“Most people are not going to be coming in to [apply for] a building permit,” said County counsel Katherine Turner.

The Board will be issuing an ordinance in the next few weeks on the growth, use, and sale of cannabis in the unincorporated areas of Imperial County, as well as setting a county tax for all commercial sales of the product within the County, including cities that have allowed cannabis products to be sold.

Several other changes to the upcoming ordinance were announced, including changing the sales tax from a special tax to a general tax and increasing the number of dispensaries from one to five.

The question is whether the sale of cannabis will be delayed until a general tax is voted on in the June election. Supervisor Ryan Kelley suggested that permitting begin at the beginning of the year and not wait until a County tax had been established.

“It seems self-serving of us that we’re going to say we can’t do anything until we know how much money we’re going to get,” said Kelley.

However, the cost of permitting and regulating the new industry may require the additional funds to be in place, according to Supervisor Luis Plancarte.

Plancarte, who served on an ad hoc committee assessing an appropriate tax rate, also warned that taxing cannabis sales at too high of a rate would push sales back into the grey market.

The ad hoc committee recommended an 8% tax to be collected, and a charge per square foot of cultivation that would ramp up over several years.

Yet the Board was hesitant to delve into too many specifics since the state was likely to modify some of its own regulations later this year before Prop 64 comes into effect January 1, 2018.

“The state of California continues to streamline the process, streamline the agencies, and change some of the procedures that are going forth,” said Plancarte. “For this board or any community to adopt something based on the foundations of those regulations that may change, may cause some problems down the road.”