Abated: How San Luis Obispo County officials destroyed two tons of cannabis

Jun 28, 2018

San Luis Obispo County recently initiated its cannabis abatement hearing process. That means if you are growing cannabis without a permit and county officials find out, you’ll have to go through what the county calls its new "streamlined civil hearing process," and your cannabis might be destroyed.

The County Department of Planning & Building recently announced that they, along with the Sheriff's Office, executed six abatement warrants and abated 2,600 illegal cannabis plants, totaling 2.63 tons from the California Valley last week.

So, what exactly is abatement?

“Abatement is really just another word for cleanup,” Rob Fitzroy said. Fitzroy is the deputy director for the San Luis Obispo Department of Planning and Building. “An example of the most common thing is if a property owner builds an unpermitted structure on their property.”

If the code enforcement branch of the department learns about something on a property that may be unpermitted, they’ll likely show up to the property and inspect it. Then, according to Fitzroy, there’s a hearing process during which the owner is usually offered an avenue to make the unpermitted item or items legal. For instance, they might pay a fee.

Sometimes it’s not that easy.

If the property owner cannot make an unpermitted structure or other items legal through the hearing process, "often times that goes to the Board of Supervisors, Fitzroy said. "The Board can make a decision whether that property owner needs to demolish it.”

It’s pretty much the same process with cannabis as with an illegal structure. But how does the county find out about illegal cannabis grows? Sometimes they literally catch wind of it.

“It’s hard to hide [cannabis], especially if it's an outdoor operation,” Fitzroy said. “The plants are very large and they have a strong odor. It’s very common that we get reports from neighbors."

To be clear, growing cannabis in California and San Luis Obispo County does not require a permit for personal or caregiver use up to six plants. But if it’s more than that, you’ll need to obtain proper county cannabis land use permits. Otherwise, the county might make you destroy your cannabis, just like they did for the six illegal cannabis grows in the California Valley.

The cannabis from those grows was "thrown into wood chippers and ground up that way,” Fitzroy said. “It was further destroyed by adding different things to it that make it unusable so folks wouldn’t try to find the trimmings.”

County officials say they will continue to seek out and put a stop to illegal grows countywide. If you’re at all concerned that you may not be in compliance, there’s a Know Before You Grow section on the county's website.