County Says It’s Working on Cannabis Laws, Cracking Down on Illegal Activity

Dated May 31, Santa Barbara County government issued an open letter that explores the ongoing controversy over the burgeoning cannabis industry and attempts to crack down on illegal activity related to it. 

The letter said “government’s role is to balance numerous sides of a complex issue, not one side or the other, that ultimately will benefit the county long term.” 

After a testy meeting in January that pitted angry Carpinteria residents and Sana Ynez Valley grape growers against pro-cannabis industry members, county officials have been trying to revamp the ordinance dealing with the issues that have been mounting since Californians voted in 2016 to legalize marijuana. 

While some residents and business owners complain about the stink cannabis causes, pro-hemp and marijuana forces say their industry will provide many jobs and millions in tax revenue while touting the therapeutic effects of cannabis.  

“Developing a regulatory environment for a new industry takes time and requires patience,” the open letter said. “The County Board of Supervisors adopts policies and regulations through a robust public process open to all stakeholders – none more so than the cannabis ordinance with more than 30 public meetings with many hours of public comment.” 

County officials said they recognize “significant tensions “exist among residents, cannabis growers and some elements of other agricultural industries.” They said they are developing a regulatory environment to address odors, enforcement, compatible land uses and eliminating the illegal marijuana economy. 

Meanwhile, the county Planning Commission will hear an appeal by an anti-cannabis community group to a Carpinteria marijuana growing permit at 9 a.m. June 5 in the county Engineering Building, 123 E. Anapamu St.

“Every land use issue in Santa Barbara County is controversial, including greenhouses in Carpinteria for cut flowers in the 1990s,” the letter said. “Cannabis is a contentious topic and one that stirs strong emotions, feelings and opinions.” 

Since 2016, the letter said, the county has worked on regulations to reduce, if not eliminate, illegal grows and negative effects blamed om cannabis cultivation.  

“Since August 2018, 30 criminal enforcement actions resulted in removal of 832,649 live plants and confiscation or elimination of 31,706 pounds of dry and wet harvested plants, illegal products and delivery services,” county officials said. “In addition to criminal enforcement, the compliance team is actively pursuing civil and land-use violations to enforce health and safety concerns.” 

“Protecting neighborhoods has been at the forefront of discussions,” the letter said. “To that end, all permitted cannabis operators are required to meet strict development standards and conditional use permits are now required of cannabis operators in existing rural neighborhoods to help reduce further impacts. “ 

The letter said the county is trying to get higher wage jobs with benefits for cannabis industry employees, and trying to create “a new regulated ag industry within a county that is 96.5 percent agricultural and forest land, and 3.5 percent urban.” 

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