More than 100 people crowded into a room in Buellton Sept. 11 to hear a panel of mostly wine and cannabis industry members discuss how they can work together to help each other boost local tourism.
Some of the panelists said something must be done to keep around visitors who pass through the area, stop briefly and then move on to Paso Robles to spend their tourism dollars.
The consensus among the seven panelists was that Santa Barbara County must loosen its laws regarding what wineries and other hospitality businesses are permitted to do for their guests, much like what San Luis Obispo County allows.
Panelist Steve Page from the wine industry said, “Santa Barbara County is anti-tourist.”
However, the panelists said they want to change that and have the wine and cannabis industries cooperate much like they do in Sonoma County, where he two agricultural industries are boosting tourism.
The Wednesday night meeting at Industrial Eats in Buellton was in stark contrast to a county Board of Supervisors marathon session in Santa Barbara earlier this year that brought out angry condemnation of the cannabis industry from North County wine grape growers.
One claimed, “You can’t taste wine if you smell cannabis,” while another threatened to halt his million-dollar winery project in Santa Ynez.
However, the Sept. 11 meeting presented a panel whose members generally agreed that both the wine and cannabis industries can benefit each other by peacefully co-existing and bringing in more tourism dollars.
Panelist and wine maker Wes Hagen said it is important that wine and cannabis work together because that will allow children in the area to have jobs paying some $68,000 a year that will allow them to stay on the Central Coast rather than move away to find work.
Hagen said views about cannabis and farming should be based on science and not just emotion that has colored the opinions of many marijuana opponents.
Panelist and cannabis grower John De Freil said the meeting to discuss how the two industries can boost tourism was long overdue.
He said within two decades cannabis will be so accepted that it will be sold in retail stores and not just dispensaries.
Former Republican congressman Jeff Denham told the crowd Washington D.C. has not seen anything like the current attempts to tear down anti-marijuana laws.
He predicted bipartisan overturning of anti-cannabis banking laws soon and federal legalization in the next two years.
The Wednesday night panel was the first in a series put on by the “Our Together We Thrive Community Forum” to learn and understand best practices and strategies that will promote tourism and economic growth for both the wine and cannabis industries, said Sara Rotman, co-chair of the North County Farmers Guild and Good Farmers Great Neighbors.
Eighty-six people RSVP’d to attend the free event and more showed up at the door. Many stood or sat on the floor.
Good Farmers Great Neighbors is a collective of North County cannabis cultivators and advocates. The group is working with community residents and businesses to find ways to enhance Santa Barbara County’s agritourism.
Posted Sept. 11, 2019.