An initiative allowing the commercial production of marijuana in limited areas of unincorporated Ventura County is headed to the voters on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
Titled Measure O, the initiative passed all the hurdles to be listed on the ballot with the county Board of Supervisors’ decision in late July to submit the question to voters.
The board has narrowly rebuffed proposals for medical marijuana businesses in the unincorporated area in the past, but could not veto this measure once the proponents collected enough valid signatures of registered voters to take the question to the electorate.
The measure would allow businesses to grow the cannabis for both medical and adult recreational sales, both of which are now permitted under state law.
A political committee called Ventura County Citizens for Responsible Cannabis, which has been linked to owners of glass greenhouses, is sponsoring the initiative.
The committee collected 38,311 valid signatures of registered voters, about 7,200 more than required for placement on the ballot, according to an analysis by county elections staff.
If approved, the initiative would allow up to 500 acres of general cultivation of cannabis and up to 100 acres for nursery cultivation. All cultivation would be done indoors, according to the initiative.
The measure allows the commercial cultivation, processing and distribution of cannabis within the unincorporated area of Ventura County, according to a summary of the measure. Sales could be made between licensed distributors but the measure would not permit retail sales to the general public.
Passage would require a simple majority from voters countywide. But the areas where production would be allowed lie only in agricultural and certain industrial zones in the unincorporated territory.
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The premises where the commercial cannabis activities would occur could not be located within a 1,200-foot radius of schools, child care centers, youth centers, drug rehabilitation centers, parks and residential neighborhoods that existed as of March 4.
Once elections officials certified that the committee’s petition for the initiative contained a sufficient number of voter signatures, the Board of Supervisors essentially had two choices. They could adopt the measure as a local ordinance that would take place immediately or submit the issue to the voters at an election.
Supervisors could have delayed the decision until they ordered a study of the effects of the initiative and reviewed the findings. They determined, though, that there was not enough time to do that and still get the measure on the Nov. 3 ballot.
County Counsel Leroy Smith said the study could have delayed the public’s vote until 2022.
Instead supervisors ordered an informational study of the initiative’s effects for the voters to review. That evaluation is supposed to be returned to the board by Sept. 1.
Kathleen Wilson covers the Ventura County government, including the county health system, politics and social services. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-437-0271.