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Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on January 12th, 2023, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 23, Issue 46 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 23, Issue 46

Cannabis' stinky growing season is coming again in Lompoc, and the county should care

By RON FINK

The stench of cannabis from county-permitted grows east of Lompoc and other areas of the county will soon return. Spring is just around the corner, and if the history of this industry is any indicator, those grows will continue to pollute our air with their skunk odor for weeks that never seem to end as county regulators sit on their hands and pretend “nothing is wrong; it’s ag land.”

In California, a “public nuisance” includes anything that is injurious to health or offensive to the senses, and these odors are exactly that—“offensive to the senses.” The people of Carpinteria and Buellton can understand what I am talking about. 

It took months of legal wrangling and costly legal representation for the people of Carpinteria to get some sort of resolution to their odor problem. We in Lompoc aren’t financially able to hire a legal firm to represent our interests, so we must put up with the stink.

The county of Santa Barbara is the permitting authority for large cannabis operations such as the Greenies Management Incorporated grow less than a mile east of Lompoc. Even though they are aware that a proven technology exists to reduce and, in many cases, prevent odors from escaping covered growing operations, they have steadfastly refused to address the issue.

After numerous complaints last year, all we got from the county of Santa Barbara was that properties zoned “AG-2” don’t require odor control; one such growing operation exists less than a mile east of Lompoc and others are planned. So if the wind blows from the east, as it does in the early morning hours, our homes, schools, and businesses be subjected to those skunky odors.

How do they know the odor-reducing technology exists? Well, local media reported that back in 2020 two citizens of Carpinteria sued one of the several growers down south for ruining their quality of life. Their claim was that the six-day-a-week odors made them ill. 

At my house when the odors persist, I must use my in-home heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system to keep odors out; this causes a major increase in our electric utility bill.

We have lived in Lompoc since 1975 and rarely had to use this type of system; we just opened the windows to ventilate the house. Those days are long gone since the cannabis industry invaded our county and negligent, poorly informed regulators allowed them to put unfiltered growing operations so close to residential areas without proven odor control protocols.

All the county regulators had to do was ask any law enforcement agent who ever served a warrant on illegal grow operations what the area smelled like, and they would have gotten an earful of eyewitness accounts. And if they would have listened to citizens who complained during the permit development hearings and during Planning Commission meetings—instead of pandering to cannabis industry developers—they would have had some idea that what they were about to do would cause problems.

Meanwhile in Carpinteria, on Dec. 9, 2020, local press reported that “the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission unanimously required carbon filters for one of the largest proposed cannabis greenhouse operations in the valley: 13 acres at Vista Verde Farms, 3450 Via Real.” And others have agreed to install filtration systems too.

That leaves Lompoc and other housing areas in the county to put up with the odors again this year. When cannabis was illegal, there were large grows all over the state, but these were in areas far removed from civilization. It is only after the state legalized this drug that large groups of citizens were exposed to the stink.

There is a venue for complaints—the Air Pollution Control District Cannabis Odor Complaint Form can be found here: docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeVpYwqVYnrzU1guPp7WTFqMksmN6cNNmimUqxLlIc6W7CZgw/viewform

I have used this form and they do not provide any feedback, so you don’t know what they do with this information.

Legalized cannabis has been with us for a couple of years; how long will it take for a majority of the Board of Supervisors to acknowledge that a serious odor problem exists with these growing operations and direct the county regulatory staff to take control of the situation?

Ron Fink writes to the Sun from Lompoc. Send a letter for publication to letters@santamariasun.com.










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