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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 18th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 50 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 50

Orcutt school district has no stance on proposed cannabis dispensaries

By Kasey Bubnash

Several cannabis companies are vying for retail space in Orcutt, and although some community members had hoped the local school district would weigh in on proposed dispensary locations, that’s not going to happen. For now, anyway. 

“At this time, the district is not looking at taking up this issue,” Orcutt Union School District Superintendent Holly Edds wrote in a statement to the Sun


SCHOOL SANDWICH
A map shows where two proposed cannabis dispensaries in Orcutt land in proximity to two local schools.
IMAGE COURTESY OF LANNY EBENSTEIN

According to Santa Barbara County’s existing cannabis ordinance, one cannabis dispensary is allowed within each of the county’s six unincorporated community plan areas, including Orcutt and Los Alamos. The county’s process to determine which companies are awarded these lucrative permits includes three phases and is supposed to heavily weigh the company’s background and its potential fit within a community.

Six applicants are fighting for a single permit in the Orcutt area, and most of the proposed dispensaries would be within a half mile from Orcutt Union schools. 

Both dispensaries proposed by SLO Cultivation and Beyond/Hello would be located at 3550 and 3596 Orcutt Road respectively, situated about two blocks away from both Joe Nightingale Elementary and Lakeview Junior High. The Natural Healing Center’s proposed location at 405 E. Clark Avenue is four blocks away from Orcutt Junior High and Orcutt Academy High School, and two others would be just a block farther from Orcutt Junior High than that. The last applicant’s dispensary would be about a mile away from the nearest school, Ralph Dunlap Elementary. 

Although Edds said in January that she was discussing “what action we are able to take, if any,” with the school district’s attorney, the district decided to hold off. 

“I really don’t have anything to add,” Edds wrote in a Feb. 9 email to the Sun. “At this time we are respecting the process the county Board of Supervisors has established and our board of trustees may choose to weigh in at a later time.”

Lanny Ebenstein is a former member of the Santa Barbara Unified School District board of education and recently served as the education chair for the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. In a January letter to the Orcutt Union School District, Ebenstein argues that the district can and should take a stance against the two dispensaries proposed for Orcutt Road, both of which would be located between Joe Nightingale and Lakeview Junior High. 

“Though the addresses of the two proposed cannabis dispensaries may be a few dozen feet more than the mandatory 600-foot buffer required between cannabis dispensaries and schools and child-serving services, location of a dispensary at either site would violate the spirit of the ordinance,” Ebenstein’s letter reads. “Moreover, that not just one, but two schools would be negatively impacted would make either of the proposed dispensaries even more detrimental to the community.”

Although school districts typically shy away from any involvement in politics, Ebenstein said this is really more of a zoning issue. 

“This isn’t a political issue in terms of taking a position on a candidate for office or something like that,” he told the Sun. “Zoning, planning, or development projects often impact schools. Those are all appropriate issues for boards of education and school districts to weigh in on.”

The potential for a pot shop in Orcutt has been controversial. It’s a small area, and all of the proposed dispensaries are within walking distance from schools or grocery stories and restaurants that kids frequent. 

It’s a tough situation, according to Edwin Weaver, executive director of Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley, a nonprofit aimed at promoting resilience against substance abuse and violence among youth. Marijuana is legal, he said, but no one seems to want it growing or selling in their neighborhoods.  

One thing that would help though, Weaver said, is to have leaders in the cannabis industry who are serious about keeping marijuana out of the hands of young people. That means more stringent advertising limits, strategic dispensary locations, and aggressive ID checks. Until then, Weaver said community members still have a say. 

“I think the big thing is that it’s very important that people are a part of the process,” he said. “And if the community doesn’t want this to happen they need to let the county Board of Supervisors know that they really don’t want this there.”










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