San Mateo County sued over pot farming — plaintiff cites environment

Daily Post Staff Writer

A “coalition” is suing San Mateo County officials for allowing marijuana to be grown in unincorporated areas on environmental grounds, saying the farming of the crop could cause pollution and draw an inordinate amount of water.

The lawsuit filed Friday (Jan. 12) in San Mateo County Superior Court identifies the plaintiff only as the “SMC Marijuana Moratorium Coalition,” but doesn’t say who is part of the group. The attorneys who filed the suit, Jason Flanders and Gregory Berlin of the Aqua Terra Aeris Law Group in Albany, couldn’t be reached yesterday, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Neither could county officials who are named as defendants.

The suit contends the county didn’t do a proper environmental review when it decided to allow the growing of marijuana in greenhouses.

The suit claims the farming operation could:

• reduce water quality and supply

• create air pollution

• worsen climate change

• cause light pollution

• and hurt animals and plants.

The county Board of Supervisors on Dec. 12 approved an ordinance that allows for the farming of marijuana in greenhouses in unincorporated areas. Maps created by county employees indicate that the only place these greenhouses could be located is on the coast side because of restrictions in state law about how close such an operation could be located to a school, day care center or other protected activities.

“While one of the stated purposes of the ordinance is to protect ‘the environment, water supply, public health, safety, and welfare,’ it achieves quite the opposite,” the lawsuit states.

The suit faults the county for not doing a thorough environmental assessment of marijuana farming. Instead of producing an environmental impact report, the county opted for a less rigorous “negative declaration.” But the suit notes that the county received letters raising concerns about the environmental problems created by pot farming.

‘Napa Valley of Marijuana’

While the lawsuit doesn’t identify the members of the SMC Marijuana Moratorium Coalition, the coalition posted an online petition Nov. 29 that asks the Board of Supervisors to place a two-year moratorium on marijuana cultivation, sale, processing and all other commercial activities in the county.

The petition, which has drawn 23 signatures, argues that marijuana commercialization will have a “negative impact on youth,” “increased criminal activity” and “negative environmental impacts.”

The petition urges the supervisors “to thoroughly study these issues before making a decision that could make San Mateo County and our beautiful coast side the ‘Napa Valley of Marijuana.’”