Das’s Folly: Why SB Supes Sweetheart Deal for Pot Growers is Failing, and Stinks to High Heaven

By Jerry Roberts of Newsmakers

Tax collections from pot, hailed as financial salvation by politicians who recklessly transformed Santa Barbara into the undisputed Cannabis Cultivation Capital of California, are drying up like desiccated weed plants in a drought.

We’re Number One!

Now comes Melinda Burns, Santa Barbara’s foremost practitioner of deep dive, enterprise journalism, to analyze and explain the why’s and how’s of the steady and sustained ebb of cannabis revenue, which seems to have surprised no one more than the geniuses on the Board of Supervisors who rammed through the industry sweetheart deal also known as the county’s regulatory ordinance.

Just home from a sabbatical Back East, Melinda straightaway resumed her singular, in-depth coverage of cannabis, and also returned this week to Newsmakers TV, for a special Press Clips conversation about her latest reporting from the front lines of Santa Barbara’s Weed Wars.

“Santa Barbara is the No. 1 county in California for active cannabis cultivation licenses (with) 22 percent of the total,” Burns reported. “The large number of licenses is a reflection of of the sheer size of the industry here — 1,575 acres of ‘grows, ‘ primarily in the North County, and 158 acres of greenhouse cannabis in the Carpinteria Valley.”

A walk down memory lane. As every school child knows, this splendid achievement for our county has been accomplished, despite SB constituting a mere 1.6 percent of California’s 163,696 square miles, almost entirely by the raw power politics and special interest associations wielded by Supervisor Das Williams and board colleague Steve Lavignino.

As the Grand Jury has chronicled in depth and detail, the pair crafted the pot ordinance largely behind closed doors, in close consultation with high-priced grower lobbyists, and in breathtaking disregard for long-established, local planning processes and norms — for the primary purpose of bulldozing a vast new industry into the county, heedless of the impact on neighbors and existing business, and the benefit of political sponsors, campaign contributors and personal pals.

“On it,” Williams famously, swiftly and obediently responded to über-grower Graham Farrar, who’d requested a pro-industry fix during the drafting of the local pot law, two words that memorably capture the spirit and sensibility of the “deliberations” behind the ordinance.

The cannabis regulations have triggered nearly five years, and counting, of political, legal and economic conflict and controversy in the county, while Boss Das and Wingman Steve have belittled, bullied and insulted opponents, insisting that their great vision offsets any pain, suffering or inconvenience the community might endure, because of the Pot of Pot Gold at the end of their conjured rainbow.


Capps questions sinking revenue. While other county revenue sources, including property, sales and hotel bed taxes are growing, “cannabis tax revenues for fiscal year 2022-23 now are projected to be…just over one third of the $16.3 million that was budgeted last June.,..” Burns reported this week.

Her piece makes clear the implications and complexities of cannabis policy and politics behind the slump, which the two supervisors try to spin with phony claims of how their “cannabis program” is all that stands between us and the shuttering of libraries, not to mention the enkindling of the atmosphere and a human extinction event.

As a political matter, the most intriguing aspect of her story is the emergence of newly-elected Supervisor Laura Capps as the first board member to raise substantive, serious and skeptical questions about cannabis policy since the departure of former Supervisor Janet Wolf after the 2018 election.

“This revenue update is a wakeup call for changes,” Capps said at a budget hearing this week. “We should take a look at how to do things better.”

To the surprise of no one among the cognoscenti and other hacks of the political class, Capps’ straightforward questions and rather innocuous comment immediately drew a crossfire display of huffy, toxic masculinity from Williams and Lavignino, whose bully boy partnership brooks no criticism of their grand project.

And no fair mentioning the emperor has no clothes, either.

In her low-key journalistic style, Burns reports fact after fact after fact in unfailingly comprehensive, fair and neutral reportage that invites readers to draw their own conclusions. On this week’s program, the usual genial host, reprising his past life as an editorial page editor, draws some of his own, barely managing to keep his aged head from exploding.

There were no injuries.

Watch our conversation with Melinda Burns about her latest reporting on Santa Barbara’s Weed Wars via YouTube below or by, clicking through this link. The ,podcast version is here.

For those who prefer appointment viewing or listening, the program airs on public access TVSB, Cox Cable Channel 17, 8 p.m., Monday-Friday, and at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. KCSB 91.9 FM. broadcasts it at 5:30 p.m. on Mondays.


Written by Jerry Roberts

“Newsmakers” is a multimedia journalism platform that focuses on politics, media and public affairs in Santa Barbara. Learn more at newsmakerswithjr.com

What do you think?


0 Comments deleted by Administrator

Leave a Review or Comment


  1. How about how he did nothing to pay attention to the concerns of constituents regarding the soon-to-be unsightly roundabouts at Olive Mill Road and San Ysidro Road . . .
    Now we learn the truth. The northbound entrance to the 101 at San Ysidro Road will be closed until 2025, but the posted sign says 2023. How many residents and those who work in the Montecito area are aware of this?

  2. Washington Post Feb. 28 Farrar & Glass House cannabis farming in Camarillo:
    “Those neighborhood ambitions help reveal Farrar’s own restless intent — to create a national cannabis business, even though his product, while legal in the Republic of California, remains illegal in the United States of America.
    “I have the capacity, when the time is right, to produce on a national scale the best cannabis in the world,” Farrar said during a recent tour. “And when that happens,” Farrar added, speaking of national legalization, “this farm goes from feeling really big to really small.”
    Link to article, free, no paywall (let me know here if it doesn’t work)

  3. Liberals love pot because it creates what they covet most. Lazy people who do not want to work and instead rely on government handouts. Who in turn vote for them so they can push a progressive agenda that condemns entrepreneurship and success. Imagine if Das after getting his degree from UCSB got a job that was not government subsidized. I am sure his value system would be different. Das, Salud, Laura, et al are just a bunch of shills who just want to obtain higher political positions and line their pockets on the back of tax payers.

  4. I have email strings i was cced on about the pot store for santa claus lane- he plainly said “he would not support” an outlet there if the residents objected we and other-hundreds of neighbors spent three years repeating our request that he NOT allow this at our one small coastal gathering of shops. Instead he smugly attacked the residents and those who appealed the project and he 100% supported it. In retrospect he probably helped engineer the approval from day one. It helps his big donors who grow literally millions of square feet of smelly cannabis right in our front yards.

  5. All of you progressives need to get involved on the local level. The local Democrat party groomed Das Williams like Ghislaine Maxwell groomed 14 year old girls. Das Williams did not become an empty suit, he always was this way, but all the fluffers in the media- Jerry Roberts included- told us Das was the real deal.

  6. “On it,” “Williams famously, swiftly and obediently responded to über-grower Graham Farrar, who’d requested a pro-industry fix during the drafting of the local pot law.” We’re on to you, Das. The insanity you’ve created in neighborhoods by your wholesale selling out to the cannabis industry is gonna cost you.

  7. Das and his ilk are economic idiots. How could they have believed legal pot would be a tax bonanza when they burdened growers with high taxes and expensive operational requirements that illegal growers don’t observe? I expect their response will be to spend millions more on eradication programs, with net benefits near zero.

  8. Das is completely and utterly full of it. He sold his soul to the pot overlords and any time he has been questioned on policy and outcomes he goes on the personal attack. He is only here biding his time and cultivating bigger and better donors so he can make a run further up the ladder.
    Das should spend some time in the real world with the rest of us “makers” working a real job. Maybe after a decade of that he will have the wisdom to go back to politics.

  9. It took some time, but finally….FINALLY…Das has been completely exposed for what he truly is: a sham, great big nothing, and we all (the voters) fell for this guy. I wish I had the link to the Edhat article that has a photo of him wearing his “I Am A Feminist” t-shirt. No Das, you are not a feminist, you are a disappointment and total disgrace.

  10. Santa Barbara has always been pretty liberal, and lots of people who live here just want to vote liberal no matter what. So there’s your Das. My question to all you who voted for him over and over is not have you had enough of him, that’s hopefully clear – he should be toast – rather, it is are you ready to think critically about the next ‘Das’ that comes along and tries to pull the wool over your eyes?

  11. I was on a local Planning Commission during the post Prop 64 “rule making” and “setting up Pot Shops” phase. There was a lot of money floating around and some electeds got compromised. Follow the money. It’s not pretty what Das Williams did, and it’s a wonder he still gets elected.

  12. A bit of history here: with passage of proposition 64, cultivation of cannabis becomes legalized in California on January 1, 2018. Santa Barbara County Supervisors GO ALL IN; Santa Barbara County becomes number one producer in cannabis cultivation in the State. New revenues generated. Smelling like a rose, on October 7, 2020, Supervisors Das Williams, Steve Lavagnino, and Joan Hartmann vote affirmatively to award themselves a 3% salary raise (Hart, Adams dissenting). On the other hand, residents left with skunky smell of pot in their neighborhoods. Follow the money and follow the smell to determine the winners and the losers.

    • …and not that long ago we were forced to call it “medicine.” Remember when all the sick people would like up like crazy (usually on a Friday afternoon) and await their turn to be taken behind the doors to get their medicine. The bud tender would suggest the best remedy if you were having problems falling asleep, or staying awake, or had anxiety, or stiff muscles, or just overall “down” feeling….oh, those bud tenders knew how to pick the best medicine for you. Why people pay $10 or more for a single pre-roll is beyond me. It’s worth a visit to Oregon where you can easily pick up Zs for under $100….take a few friends along and pay for your entire trip, and then float your way back to SB with a stop-off at the Anderson’s bakery in Santa Nella. And don’t worry, there are no interactions with your medicine and Anderson’s chocolate-covered cream puffs.

    • “we were forced to call it “medicine.”” – No you weren’t. No one forced you to call it anything. Way to belittle the hundreds of thousands of suffering HIV and cancer patients who could only find true relief with cannabis. Well, relief without damaging their livers and kidneys and becoming opiate addicts.
      Does it really feel that good to make fun of terminally ill people? Gross.

    • Sacjon, I’m 100% with you on this issue, but you gotta tone down the sanctimony. Nowhere did Babycakes make fun of terminally ill people. We all know that anyone could get a “prescription” with $70 and a “visit” and that part of it was a farce. Folks who wanted legalization anyway were mostly fine with this rhetorical backdoor, whereas folks who were anti-liberalization found it dishonest.
      I was/am very much for a more liberal drug policy, but don’t like charades. In the long run, they do real damage.

    • I’m with you on this — In many cases the medical benefit is clear and important.
      I read the comment more as making fun of and expressing outrage at all the people who were abusing the “real” instances you mention just to get high… and that we were compelled in our important shared spaces of public power (legal, medical) to pretend that rampant abuse wasn’t going on.
      For the record, even when NOT medical I’m strongly in support of this and other forms of drug de-criminalization and liberalization. I do also feel, however, that lately we are forgetting important caveats and limitations to this more libertarian framework related to external harms.

    • dictionary.com
      pot [definition 2] noun Slang. marijuana.
      marijuana noun
      1 a psychoactive narcotic drug rendered from the leaves and flowering tops of a cannabis plant, especially Cannabis sativa, used for recreational or medical purposes by smoking, vaping, or ingesting:
      He’s tried marijuana but claims it has no effect on him.
      2 the dried leaves and flowering tops from which the drug is rendered:
      Her personal stash of marijuana is rarely more than an ounce or two.
      3 any plant of the genus Cannabis, especially C. sativa, whose leaves and flowering tops have psychoactive properties:
      several acres of cultivated marijuana.

  13. All those grows STILL operating without licenses many years later, gee whiz, what ARE those 30 government employees DOING? And who didn’t think the cannabis cultivators would cheat on “self-reporting” their sales and income? They are all cash because no federal bank will deal with them, and cash and drugs brings no good to a community. As for Das, anyone who has watched our local government in action can see he is a bought man.

  14. Das bought and paid for! The cannabis rev ensue this year of about $7m will no t covet the wages and benefits of the 30 or so SB County employees working exclusively on cannabis. The revenue forecasts were all based on bud at $2000 pound. It is now $500 pound if that. There are growers who don’t pay anything to the county. We allowed a business which was for years illegal to calculate and self report the amount they owe in cannabis tax. You’ve got to be kidding! These people existed in the illegal world for a long time now we expect them to become model citizens and do the right thing by paying taxes. We are maybe the only county in California that does charge on acreage, but rather on finished goods and then report the amount of those finished goods to the county.
    I’m not a big Capps dynasty fan nor am I a Biden, Bush or Kennedy dynasty fan, but at least she’s asking the right questions. The regulations need to be restructured simple as that. If the growers don’t like it then close up and move on.

  15. if you are concerned about the far left candidates, just watch where the local unions send their contributions. Das, Capps on SB County BOS and James Kyriako and Luz reyes-martin on Goleta council take tens of thousands from unions. If we can vote for more moderate candidates, unions dont like that, maybe we can have better local government. Capps was only saying she was concerned about the pot farms in Carp trying to get elected against Das. Now she is on BOS in a different district.

Santa Barbara International Orchid Show is Back

A Flight of Noisy Angels