Cannabis farmers seek legal way to grow

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San Diego County has farmers who have worked in the region’s rural residential and commercial agricultural zones for generations. Many of these residents would like to continue this tradition — not by growing avocados or tomatoes — but by lawfully growing cannabis and hemp on their existing properties.

This may prove difficult given that upcoming actions by the county Board of Supervisors may ban local cultivation altogether or relegate it solely to medical dispensaries. Either of these actions would leave independent farm-to-market businesses literally out in the weeds.

Recently, California enacted two laws that chart a legal path forward for outdoor commercial cannabis farming — with the state slated to begin issuing licenses in January 2018.

Under these laws — the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, enacted in 2015 and the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, approved by voters in November — farms that receive zoning approval from local jurisdictions can then apply for a state license.

Those without local permits will have to leave their land untilled.

The problem is that navigating this politically charged process is far from clear — and, as of today, no local communities have allowed outdoor cannabis farms to take root.

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