In fall 2018, after a spirited campaign, Half Moon Bay voters approved, by a narrow margin (53 percent voted for it), an ordinance allowing the greenhouse cultivation of marijuana seedlings. At the same time, 56 percent of voters rejected commercial cultivation of mature marijuana plants as well as the retail sale of marijuana, and 59 percent said no to allowing marijuana manufacturing facilities.  

Unfortunately, due to a 2017 San Mateo County Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance and a 2018 amendment reducing buffer zone distances, some Half Moon Bay neighborhoods near the unincorporated county areas will be exposed to the impacts of mature marijuana farms. 

According to the county website, one application from two growers from Humboldt County seeks a license to grow mature marijuana in the greenhouses of the old orchid and fruit farm on Frenchmans Creek Road. This location is less than a mile, as the crow flies, from both Frenchmans Creek (.85 miles) and Sea Haven (.81 miles) neighborhoods. In addition, parts of Bay City Flowers across from Ocean Colony and California Terra Gardens off Highway 92, east just past and behind the Shell service station area, legally could grow mature marijuana. Big marijuana interests continue to lobby for expansion of commercial activities on the Coastside.

The county has determined, pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act, that the proposed Frenchmans Creek Road marijuana farm will not have a significant impact on the environment, provided several measures are taken to protect Frenchmans Creek, safeguard vulnerable wildlife, and an odor control system is installed. The county’s environmental study can be reviewed at https://planning.smcgov.org/ceqa-document/revised-mitigated-negative-declaration-half-moon-grow-cannabis-cultivation-license

Our county supervisors, in authorizing marijuana cultivation on the Coastside, are undertaking a great socioeconomic experiment that could negatively affect our environment, public safety, youth and quality of life. The people of Half Moon Bay demonstrated their awareness of these potential impacts when they voted “no” last fall to mature marijuana cultivation, pot dispensaries and manufacturing facilities in their city. 

At the time the Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance was passed, Supervisor Don Horsley stated, “I don’t foresee any material community impact. It seems this is a very vigorous, rigorous and well thought out ordinance.”

No law or regulation, no matter how “rigorous,” is effective unless it is enforced. The current procedure for notifying the county of any infractions of its marijuana ordinance is for individuals to contact the county Planning and Building Department in Redwood City. Significantly, the license fees charged by the county are much too low to provide for the needed personnel and systems to monitor compliance at grow sites with all permit conditions — noise, light, odor, number of plants, tracking of plants, disposal or waste, etc.

Since several Coastsiders have found the county to be less responsive to the concerns of individual Coastside residents on marijuana issues, it may be time for Coastsiders to organize to monitor the impacts of this industry on the community. This coalition would compile residents’ observations of any negative impacts and bring them to the attention of Horsley and appropriate county personnel. 

It will be up to us, as a community, to bring any negative community impacts to Horsley’s attention and demand that he act to ensure that the marijuana industry comply with county and state laws and regulations, as well as, call for additional legislation to be passed to protect our community as needed. 

The future of our beautiful city and Coastside depends on it. 

Anne Martin is a Miramar resident.

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