Cannabis nurseries are now allowed in Half Moon Bay after voters narrowly approved Measure GG in the November election, but that was just the first challenge facing prospective business owners.
Eric Hollister and his partners, “Farmer John” Muller and Dustin Cline are now winding their way through the permit process, refining business plans and searching for investors and partnerships. They’re retaining four lawyers, Hollister said, and he estimates it will cost between $2 million and $3 million to set up shop.
“And the nursery path is the least expensive of any commercial cannabis business,” Hollister said.
The three partners are the only ones currently trying to open a cannabis nursery in Half Moon Bay. They were behind the effort to pass Measure GG and it did pass by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent — a difference of 333 votes — after a contentious campaign.
The new rules allow only immature, non-flowering cannabis plants to be cultivated on properties currently home to a greenhouse and those plants will then have to be sold outside city limits. The immature plants will be about 4 inches long once they’re shipped out of the city.
Muller partnered with Hollister and Cline in part because he’s struggling to make ends meet growing pumpkins, produce and chicken eggs. The two are leasing land at Muller’s Daylight Farm, located on the outskirts of town and only accessible via a winding dirt road marked with “private property” signs.
The plan is to demolish the mostly dilapidated greenhouses currently sitting on the property, shift the footprint of the structures away from the nearby neighbors, and build 65,000 square feet of new “high tech” greenhouse space — enough to produce between 100,000 and 120,000 cuttings a month.
They’re still working on the design plans for the greenhouses, which will see a Planning Commission hearing before construction, Hollister said.
Anticipating possible neighbor concerns, Hollister said the new greenhouses will not be taller than the existing ones, automated blackout curtains will be installed to shield neighbors from lights, a tree line may be planted for an additional buffer and the greenhouses will also be painted to aesthetically match ones on adjacent properties.
Once the greenhouses are built, they’ll be equipped with as many high-resolution cameras and security infrastructure as a bank or pharmacy, Hollister said, adding that the starter plants don’t have odors like mature flowering ones, so he does not anticipate further controversy on that particular point.
One major concern is ensuring demolition and construction does not impact the endangered garter snake or red-legged frog and the greenhouses will be constructed on cement so that runoff doesn’t spill into the nearby and heavily regulated Pilarcitos Creek.
But before construction begins, the partners will have to pass background checks and pay a city permit fee of about $5,000, Hollister said, and also obtain a state license that costs about as much.
“It’s been super transparent with the city, we’re helping each other out, which is great,” Hollister said. “We both want to see this work.”
Hollister is of course happy that Measure GG passed, but the campaign was heated at times and the fight does not appear to be over. Hollister said his opponents are raising concerns about the amount of money the partners spent on the campaign.
“There was a lot of misinformation [during the campaign] and that was the most frustrating part,” Hollister said. “But the biggest stress was I didn’t like the fight with the community — people I see when I get coffee and go to the market.
“I expect pitchforks and torches at the next council meeting,” he added.
After the greenhouses are built, the plan is to hire about 25 local workers who will be paid well plus health insurance, Hollister said. He’d also like to build workforce housing on the property in part to further reduce traffic impacts, but that project is not currently a priority.
If everything goes according to plan, the nursery could be up and running in a year, Hollister said.
“Once this is done it will be one of the most advanced and nicest greenhouses up and down the coast,” Hollister said.
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