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SLO County cannabis operators look to supervisors for ordinance reversal to help keep their jobs

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Posted at 10:53 PM, Dec 17, 2019

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Hundreds of workers in the local cannabis industry could soon be out of work. Growers blame the job loss on county officials changing their minds.

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors originally allowed cannabis operators to start cultivation while their permits were being processed, but recently decided anyone who does not have a valid permit will now have to stop growing during the long permitting process.

It was a nail biting morning at the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors Tuesday as dozens of workers in the local cannabis industry pleaded to keep their jobs.

"As a labor contractor, I struggle as well as my employees to find a well-paid, stable job and by you guys canceling, that means we will be losing our jobs that we found," said Leo Perez, a San Luis Obispo County based labor contractor.

This comes after the board of supervisors decided to end a resolution that allowed cannabis operators to cultivate while their permits are being processed.

Those in the industry say this ruling was unfair because the county's process for approving the permits is a lengthy one.

"Just to give you an example, for one of [our] projects that is not approved yet is currently still in the process, we received a letter from the county saying it was a complete application and they were going to start processing it in January of 2019. We're here almost a year later and we still don't have a hearing date," said Nick Andre, Chief Operating Officer of the Natural Healing Center.

In the meeting Tuesday, cannabis advocates asked county supervisors to put this item back on their agenda but not all county supervisors are on board with revisiting their decision.

"We have extended this ordinance twice by unanimous consent by the board. I get it, I want everyone to be employed but people have to get into compliance at some point. We can't just keep every year giving another year - we don't do that for any other industry in this county," said Supervisor Lynn Compton.

Those in the industry fear the loss of these jobs will cause a ripple effect in the local economy.

"Because we hire locally, the money we're paying our employee recirculates into local businesses like grocery stores and other shops," Andre said.

Cannabis advocates were successful in getting this issue scheduled on the board of supervisors agenda.

That meeting is set for January 14th.

Cannabis businesses like the Natural Healing Center say if the supervisors decide to continue with ending their resolution, they'd have to lay off around 30 employees.