We are concerned citizens working to protect our Island from industrial marijuana production and processing facilities. We are looking to create comprehensive county regulations which will protect our children, environment, and natural resources from the industrial effects of large-scale marijuana operations.
We were called to action December 2018 by an application for a Tier 3 Marijuana Production/Processor facility at 1995 Ferry Road by Saturn Group LLC / Ceres / Laurent Bentitou. A Tier 3 operation is the largest size marijuana grow that can be applied for - it allows for 10,000 to 30,000 of dedicated plant canopy. After withdrawing that application in February 2019, Mr. Bentitou quickly pivoted and applied for two new licenses at his vacation property at 1395 Lopez Sound Road : a Tier 2 facility (WSLCB Application #413450), and a Tier 3 facility (WSLCB Application #428265).
Our concerns our detailed below:
Strong odors from a commercial cannabis grow facility throughout a months-long growing season can make life, business, and family activities extremely unpleasant in the near-vicinity and will significantly diminish property resale values and the quality of lives for those living, working and recreating in the surrounding area. These odors are very different from those we typically attribute to current agricultural activity in San Juan County. Strong unpleasant odors are emitted from marijuana plants during a spring/summer 8 to 16 week flowering period and during harvest time, and odors can be more prevalent with year-round grow operations. The odor is described in a myriad of online articles as “skunk-like” and “sewer-like” with a “sulfurous” (rotten egg) quality that is “impossible to get used to.” In addition, the odor can travel up to a half mile or more. These strong odors will be more than a nuisance for neighbors to the operation.
Listed below are a few articles that speak to this concern:
High water usage
Online research indicates that that cannabis is considered a “thirsty” plant and a marijuana plant during growing periods can consume up to 6 gallons of water a day. Ceres/Saturn LLC’s Tier 3 operation in Bellevue has 6,000 plants - a comparable operation here on Lopez could consume up to 36,000 gallons per day during peak growing periods. This water demand far exceeds the 5,000 gallons per day allowed from a permit-exempt well (RCW 90.44). San Juan County has sensitive and scarce water resources and this extravagant groundwater usage by just one Tier 3 or Tier 2 commercial marijuana production and processing operation will have adverse impacts on aquifer conditions and affect many neighboring properties. For lifetimes. These potential impacts include additional sea water intrusion into sea level aquifers and deterioration of wetland and surface water systems.
8’ wire fencing, surveillance cameras & lighting
The overt security measures outlined in WAC 314-55-075 (1)b and WAC 314-55-083 of a sight obscure perimeter fence at least eight feet high, surveillance and alarm systems that run 24/7, security lighting, along with the industrial nature of this operation do not match the rural landscape or values of our island community.
Decreased property values
The industrial look and smell of this operation will have a negative affect on property values for the whole island due to its proximity to our main road and all traffic to the ferry landing and village. Property values in other Washington State counties are already feeling the negative effect of having an industrial marijuana complex in the neighborhood. In Spokane County the odors were so strong and unpleasant that the county assessor had to lower the appraised tax value of every home within a 1⁄2 mile radius by 25 percent.
Law Enforcement Impact
Our island has a known shortage of law enforcement. The lack of an adequate police presence coupled with the high value of marijuana will make the operation a magnet for criminals. How will SJ County provide for public safety in the vicinity of a rural marijuana production facility considering the nature of the product and its monetary value?