Wednesday, February 8, 2023     Volume: 23, Issue: 49

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 18th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 16 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 16

Supervisors propose measures to tighten cannabis regulations

By Zac Ezzone

Cannabis farmers in Santa Barbara County could face additional hurdles if proposed changes to existing local regulations take effect.

On June 11, the county Board of Supervisors held a hearing to discuss the county Planning Commission’s proposal to require all cannabis applicants obtain a conditional use permit, rather than a land use permit. Under existing regulations, the permit required is based on different factors, such as where a project is located.

Most projects in rural areas only require a land use permit, which is easier to obtain and doesn’t provide the county with as much control over certain aspects of the proposal. The commission believed that by requiring conditional use permits, the county could examine each project individually and mandate certain conditions to prevent odor issues and other problems with neighboring properties. 

During the meeting, 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam said he supported this change. 

“I do think that there’s just way too many conflicts because of where the cannabis industry wants to go so far,” Adam said. “They kind of engineer in conflicts with all the proximity to all the existing agriculture and the urban interfaces that they’re attempting to get established, and I think a [conditional use permit] is a really good idea.”

But a majority of the board found this to be too blunt of an approach. Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said that because all conditional use permits must go before the Planning Commission, this would significantly delay the time it takes to work through the nearly 200 project applications, which means it would take time for the county to sort through the good and bad projects.

“The reality is when you slow down the process, the bad actors will be continuing to work for many months and possibly years,” Lavagnino said.

Instead of moving forward with the commission’s proposal, the board proposed four different regulation changes that will return to the board for final approval.

At the suggestion of 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, the board approved prohibiting cannabis cultivation in what the county refers to as existing developed rural neighborhoods. This includes places like Cebada and Tepusquet canyons, where a neighborhood of residents live in a largely rural area. Lavagnino and 1st District Supervisor Das Williams voted against this motion, with the former calling it “bad government” to change the rules so drastically for people who have navigated the county’s permitting process over the last two years.

Supervisors also voted in favor of requiring applicants to obtain a conditional use permit when proposing to grow cannabis on more than 51 percent of the total acreage of a parcel. Hartmann and Adam both voted against this change because they didn’t think it went far enough to address concerns about conflicts with nearby agriculture. 

Hartmann said she is concerned about the number of cannabis projects proposed in and near the Santa Rita Hills American Viticultural Area, which is a federally recognized wine-grape growing region. Hartmann proposed that the county require all cannabis projects within the area to obtain a conditional use permit. But this motion failed. 

The board approved a motion that would require all processing and drying of cannabis to take place inside a facility equipped with odor control technology, as well as a motion that would prevent cannabis from being grown within 50 feet of a neighboring property. 

The board directed staff to work on ordinances based on these motions, which will be brought back to the board for approval at a future meeting. Changes wouldn’t affect projects that the county has already approved. 

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