Some California marijuana farmers could lose acreage under pending rule changes

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Marijuana growers in Santa Barbara County, California, could lose coveted acreage allotments, a longstanding point of contention in one the nation’s largest cannabis-producing regions.

The county’s Board of Supervisors voted in favor of an ordinance change that would remove acreage held under the cap by licensed cannabis cultivators if they don’t farm that land by their third license renewal, according to the Santa Ynez Valley News.

The revised amendment, opposed by local growers, is scheduled for final approval at the board’s Nov. 29 meeting, and will go into effect 30 days later, if passed.

It would also allow growers to fallow – or not grow on their land – for up to eight months and every three years.

However, they would have to cultivate their entire acreage allotment before those exemptions could be made.

Local growers, particularly small, independent farmers, have been squeezed the past few years as wholesale cannabis prices bottomed out in California.

That has turned grow cycles into money-losing propositions, as the cost of production has surpassed the price of wholesale flower.

Santa Barbara County in 2019 enacted a 1,575-acre cultivation cap and hit that max late last year, with several applicants still stuck in the application process amid a dash to secure the last land entitlements.

The cap was intended to assuage local concerns over odor and perception issues within the bucolic wine-producing region.

Instead, the cap has created consternation, environmental lawsuits, project appeals, squabbles among neighbors and bottlenecks in regulatory approvals.