Sunshine Law

BSFA President Oliver Bates and Secretary-Treasurer Ondine Gorton count more than 100 members since launching last October.

For decades, Big Sur cannabis has been legendary among aficionados, much like wines hailing from renowned appellations.

The secret behind the weed legend, cannabis farmers say, is simple: Their crops are grown in natural sunlight. The move is on to label cannabis coming from Big Sur and Carmel Valley as “Santa Lucia appellation,” and it just got a boost after a July 10 vote by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors to launch a pilot program to allow legalized outdoor cannabis grows.

Growers who’d been growing medical cannabis legally for two decades suddenly found themselves shut out of the business when Monterey County restricted cannabis to greenhouse cultivation only, says Ondine Gorton, secretary and treasurer of Big Sur Farmers Association.

BSFA members have been showing up to county meetings for months, speaking up about how the county ordinance hurts growers and their employees. Despite warnings from Deputy District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni (who will become District Attorney in January) of potential dangers of allowing outdoor grows – in short, they are harder to police – the supervisors voted 3-2 in favor of a six-month pilot program allowing outdoor grows, starting in 2019.

Gorton says she understands why the county went to greenhouses first as legalization approached: There were empty buildings ready for repurposing after the cut flower industry suffered, and they’re easier to regulate. But she says the quality just doesn’t compare: “It’s not the best-quality marijuana. You will never get the same properties with an indoor grow compared to that grown with the sun.”

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