LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom
Santa Barbara County officials have opened the door to host the world's largest marijuana farm, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Reporter Joe Mozingo takes an in-depth look at how one cannabis company was approved to erect hoop greenhouses over 147 acres, creating the largest legal marijuana grow on earth, while the second largest grow at 83 acres is currently being planted two miles away.
Santa Barbara County Supervisors voted not to limit the size and number of marijuana grows, chose not to verify grower's applications for licenses or conduct site inspections, and opted to tax grow operations on gross revenue instead of license square footage without a method to verify the numbers resulting in the county receiving a fraction of what was predicted, reports Mozingo.
Marijuana industry lobbyists are being credited for influencing county officials to approve lax regulations in the past two years unlike any other county in the United States. While having 1.8% of California's state lands, farms in Santa Barbara County hold 35% of all issued cultivation licenses while Humboldt County only has 22%.
The investigative article identified county supervisors Das Williams and Steve Lavagnino as lobbyists' points of contact while mentioning supervisor Gregg Hart hired a marijuana lobbyist as his chief of staff. Dennis Bozanich, deputy county executive officer in Santa Barbara County, joined with Williams and Lavagnino to write temporary measures and a broad ordinance regulating the industry.
"Emails and calendars released to The Times through the state public records act show marijuana lobbyists and growers had easy and regular access to Williams and Lavagnino," reports Mozingo.
Both Lavagnino and Williams received campaign contributions from marijuana growers upwards of $12,000 each. A series of email exchanges show Williams advocated on behalf of pot growers to shoot down a proposal that would have required them to bear costs of neighborhood appeals on their permits, he signed and sent a letter to the Coastal Commission that was written by a cannabis consultant regarding a pot ordinance in the coastal zone, frequently socialized with the president of the Carp Growers political coalition, and planned a trip with a marijuana lobbyist.
“The [LA Times article] covers only one side of the story and doesn’t reflect what I’ve done to meet the concerns of Carpinteria residents, which resulted in the Carpinteria Valley having the strictest regulations in the county, including a cap on grows and odor control. We have put in place rigorous enforcement including criminal enforcement in an industry difficult to enforce," Williams said to Jerry Roberts of Newsmakers.
Williams is up for re-election in 2020.
In an interview with Roberts, Lavagnino stated he "totally disagrees" with the LA Times article but has thick skin. Lavagnino went on to defend the transparency of the ordinance drafting process, saying “this was not done in the dark” and noting that there were “60 public meetings” held around it, and shrugged off the suggestion that “we were doing the bidding of one side on this,” reports Roberts.
Read the entire article at LAtimes.com