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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 5th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 18 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 18

Hundreds register pot operations with Santa Barbara County


As a 5 p.m. deadline loomed on June 30 for marijuana growers in unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County to register their operations, residents packed a hearing room in Santa Maria to tell the county’s ad hoc committee on marijuana exactly what a future ordinance should regulate.

When the hearing started at 2 p.m., 437 growers had already registered with the county, and Deputy County Executive Officer Dennis Bozanich said he expected that number to increase before the close of business that day. He specified that registering a marijuana grow didn’t necessarily guarantee the registrant anything under the new ordinance, which is expected to be finalized by February 2018.

“We’ve made no specific commitments about whether that entitles them to anything,” Bozanich told the crowd. “It’s a pretty sizeable number at this point, and it could provide some priority to those who registered.”

Santa Barbara County’s ad hoc committee on the future of cannabis operations held a North County meeting on June 30 to answer questions and get a feel for what residents want out of a future ordinance regulating both medical and recreational marijuana businesses.

“Awesome,” whispered someone in the crowd.

Those registrations will give the county an idea of what’s actually happening in the marijuana industry—and where it’s happening—Bozanich said. They will help inform an economic analysis on the industry’s potential effect on the county, as well as provide baseline data for the environmental analysis the county’s chosen to pursue as part of the environmental impact report (EIR) it’s compiling for marijuana in the county.

The June 30 meeting in North County followed up the ad hoc committee’s first meeting on April 25 in South County. More public scoping meetings will be held in July and September, and Bozanich said he expects a draft EIR to be available for review in November.

While one public speaker implored the county not to limit the number of marijuana operations, others were concerned pot might be outlawed on agriculturally zoned land, and still others mentioned a need to educate people about the benefits of medical cannabis versus opiates. But the biggest showing outside of those in the marijuana industry came from residents of Tepusquet Canyon.

Resident Lillian Clary told the Sun that 24 neighbors showed up at the meeting to plead their case: The county should ban cannabis grows in Tepusquet. Each wore a purple visor embroidered with the words “Tepusquet Canyon Crisis Committee.”

Speakers complained about illegal marijuana growing operations, water trucks running up and down dirt roads, pesticide and chemical run-off, and the illegal clearing of native oaks and grading of roads. Residents also said they were concerned about the effects of increased water pumping on their already strapped water table and increased fire danger in an area already considered to be a high fire risk area.

“It’s just not an appropriate place for that kind of cultivation,” one resident said. “Not trying to undo the will of the people of California, … just trying to look for some regulations that are appropriate.”

The two county supervisors who serve on the subcommittee, Das Williams (1st District) and Steve Lavagnino (2nd District), said their goal was to eventually put a permitting structure in place so that the county can start taking enforcement actions against illegal players.

“Inconsistencies between federal and state laws make it enormously complicated to figure out who is a bad player and who’s operating within the law or not,” Williams said during the meeting. “There is never going to be monitoring that takes place until there is a permit structure in place and there are permits issued … There is no way this county can enforce and pay for that until there are permits.”

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