Supervisors Agree to Added Restriction for Local Cannabis Growers
By edhat staff
Santa Barbara County Supervisors voted Tuesday to restrict marijuana farming on agriculturally zoned land with 20 or fewer acres (AG-1).
Agricultural Zone 1 (AG-1) is agricultural land that sits closer to urban development including schools and residences.
The 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Steve Lavagnino dissenting, will also require conditional-use permits instead of land permits for cannabis operations larger than AG-1 zoning. Cannabis growers will now have to request permits through the Planning Commission, lengthening the permitting process.
The supervisor meeting in Santa Maria lasted the entire day and into the evening with hundreds of public comments, some were in person while others commented via live stream from Santa Barbara. A possible countywide business licensing ordinance was tabled until next week, including discussions on odor control, limiting the number of cannabis growing acres and cultivation sites.
Local residents, cannabis farmers, non-cannabis farmers, and mayors of local towns all participated in public commenting. They ranged from banning marijuana farming altogether to easing the current cultivation regulations. Many people spoke of the potentially harmful odor as well as breathing issues, especially being so close to schools and homes, and the negative economic impacts on local tourism.
Stephen Janes of Santa Barbara Vintners emphasized the local wine industry is not anti-marijuana, but fears the odor is threatening the wine and ecotourism of Santa Barbara County. "If more stringent regulations don't happen to prevent the odor from emanating, it will damage the wine industry and the tourism industry, and the taxes and revenues associated with it," he said.
Others asked for fair and appropriate guidelines to function as farmers in an industry that was approved by voters.
Paul Kowalski, Chairman of the Cannabis Business Council of Santa Barbara County, explained the local cannabis industry is looking for support. "As you go forward we're asking that you enable us to compete [with bigger agricultural competitors] and provide us with a regulation that we can abide by and succeed."
The next Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled for July 16 before the board takes a month-long summer recess.