At the beginning of the month, an ordinance took effect that makes it possible to apply for commercial licenses and legally cultivate cannabis in unincorporated San Mateo County. After months of public discussions, a group of citizens, from the Coastside and throughout the Bay Area, continue to challenge that decision.
On Friday, the SMC Marijuana Moratorium Coalition filed a lawsuit against San Mateo County and its Planning and Building Department.
A petition for a writ of mandate and complaint alleges that in enacting the ordinance, county authorities circumvented the California Environmental Quality Act, leading to “significant environmental concerns.” The coalition wants the county to vacate its approval of the ordinance unless the county complies with these environmental requirements.
One reason county officials said they approved the ordinance to permit cultivation of cannabis was to help the struggling agriculture industry. Cultivation, as outlined in the ordinance, would be restricted to greenhouses, an estimated 20 percent of which are currently empty throughout the county. But attorney’s documents filed with the Superior Court said that there were “several fair arguments” that the county’s ordinance would “adversely impact hydrology and water quality, sensitive species and habitat, air and light pollution, climate change” and other effects, and that the county “sidestepped” CEQA Environmental Impact Report requirements. The Aqua Terra Aeris Law Group, representing the coalition, did not respond to requests for comment. While the lawsuit hinges on environmental concerns, the coalition previously circulated a petition calling for a moratorium on commercial cannabis, citing concerns about the potential for negative impact on youth, as well as increased criminal activity. Members of the SMC Marijuana Moratorium Coalition said that they want time to more thoroughly assess the ordinance’s impacts across the board.