LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

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LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom
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Illegal marijuana grow operation raided in Santa Ynez (Photo: Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office)

By edhat staff

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

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a-1571562723 Jun 15, 2019 12:24 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Legal marijuana grows are much more expensive to operate than illegal ones thanks to the high tax burdens and regulations imposed by SB County Supervisors. This encourages the illegal operators to set up increasing numbers of grow ops all over Santa Barbara County. Santa Barbara County Supervisors have created bad and unintended consequences for businesses and residents by implementing a poorly thought-out plan. We have illegal operations overflowing into neighborhoods like Carpinteria and Montecito. Enforcement costs are increasing. Now the question becomes “What specific actions are SB County Supervisors taking to protect their constituents from these bad policy outcomes?”

DBD Jun 14, 2019 12:43 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

I cannot believe the level of conspiracy stories out there, this is starting to get out of hand. Cannabis cultivation is a new industry in this state and has more regulation and barriers to entry than perhaps any Ag in history. I urge all of you to go visit the CDFA Cal Cannabis website and watch some videos and read some of the FAQ to get a sense of what these growers are required to comply with. Understand that that is only at the state level, and then you have the county side with LUP/CUP as well. For better or worse, you do need to have capital and legal expertise to even get into this industry as it has been created. I have lived in SB county my entire life and know many people who have been attempting to enter this market, they are not all criminals and out of town millionaires like some of these comments would suggest. If i were an outsider reading these comments I would assume carp was one big avocado orchard until 2017 and that no hoop structure had ever been used in the county until that time either. Reality is that the green houses and hoops have been around for decades yet now there is some stigma that they are all full of black market weed or something. Not sure who is controlling this narrative, or what the goal is, but there is so much misinformation out there it is scary to see people starting to believe it, lol.

a-1571562723 Jun 14, 2019 02:14 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

For centuries humans have killed and even gone to war over certain plants. Columbus "discovered" the "new world" while looking for a new route to spice growing regions. The European powere battled for centuries over spice growing regions. The Opium war of 1839. The Chaco war of 1932 was fought over Yerba Mate and oil.

yacht rocked Jun 13, 2019 08:33 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

The Western end of the valley's filling up with greenhouses and pavement. That's the truth. What comes next? Do you think that it's going to revert to orchards? When did you see that last? No, it's going to turn into "smart housing" or high-density Uber-only Procore geek housing and Senior no-driving housing or whatever else sounds smart and PC. But it will never be fields and orchards again.

yacht rocked Jun 14, 2019 06:14 AM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Open Google Earth, find a location like western Carp Valley. Click View and then Historical Imagery or, above the 3D viewer, click Time. See for yourself.

a-1571562723 Jun 13, 2019 04:45 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Everyone wants a conspiracy. It's juicy. Here's a legit question that might not fit a conspiracy narrative: how else would a county supervisor gain an understanding of how a newly legal market might work without talking to those who wish to operate within the newly legal market? It doesn't amount to much of a scandal when considering the facts. California voters legalized weed. California lawmakers had to figure out how to make that work. Those with an interest in creating a newly legal market met with lawmakers at both the state and local level to discuss how this $5 billion black market might come into legitimacy. The end result was setting up a market that includes many, many protections for citizens, costly protections, that cost a lot of money for weed growers. More than two supervisors had to approve this, along with planning commissioners. (Maybe they're all part of the conspiracy) Guess what? Now legal weed grows in SB County. Before only illegal and medicinal weed grew here. Now the county can collect taxes and enforce against rule breakers. The county was able to pull this off more quickly than other counties because some strong leaders were decisive. Good job county.

a-1571562723 Jun 14, 2019 06:52 AM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

What about the cannabis ordinance doesn't respect norms? Coastal zone ordinance for cannabis (applying to carpinteria) passed planning commission, supervisors and coastal commission. How is that not public and normal? However you feel about the marijuana plant is irrelevant. City of carp asked county to cap acreage at 225 and county capped it at 186. Nobody can just make these #s up out of thin air without asking around to see what's practical. Who knows about ethics and who can speak to whom? I'm sure Das has had numerous meetings with Concerned Carpinterians or whoever wants to talk to him. Let's also not pretend that these anti-cannabis groups are well funded, as is Cate school, which has been one of the major complainers. Do Revelations in the article look bad? Sure. That can be said, but look at the ordinance itself. It actually doesn't follow "norms" but goes quite above and beyond any norms ever created for greenhouse ag in carpinteria.

a-1571562723 Jun 13, 2019 09:40 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Good try county guy.....”how would a supervisor gain understanding....”?!? Are you f-in serious? The same way ethical elected officials gain “ understanding” about any public policy issue- do their homework, apply existing policies and respect community norms and plans......and for land use matters it is essential, whether the oil industry or pot industry- that elected officials do not conduct private meetings with the private industry reps esp while ordinances being developed. Big no no.

Factotum Jun 13, 2019 02:59 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

How to lose your county in two easy steps: (1) Run up huge county employee pension and benefit debt in exchange for their election and re-election campaign support. (2) Sell the county out to the highest bidder attempting to pay off this huge public employee debts. Santa Barbara County in a nutshell.

Factotum Jun 13, 2019 02:53 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Go to County Elections Office. Learn how many signatures you need to recall Das Williams.. Start collecting signatures. Don't bother protesting. Attend every large public gathering and get your required numbers to sign the recall petition. Local voters far out number the local pot industry by a mile. Power is all in your your hands - residents of Montecito and Carpinteria. Don't wait until 2020 to turn Das Williams out. Do it now.

Factotum Jun 13, 2019 02:08 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Das Williams - Gregg Hart - Joan Hartman - are the controlling votes on our county board of supervisors. They did this to us. They cannot be re-elected ever again. For anything. Janet Wolf's hand was also in this before Joan Hartman picked up where she left off. Shockingly bad judgement, but it happened. Do not re-elect any of these people. Recalling them right now is appropriate, now that we see and understand the fatal damage they have done to us and our county. This is just the start of the utter degradation of this county -that rested on its "environmental" laurels far too long. Nothing good comes along with the pot industry; nor having turned the rest of the county over to the sprawling wine industry who have done a similar number in north county.

Bug Girl Jun 14, 2019 07:41 AM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

No sir we have no recreational brick and mortar stores. Only medical marijuana stores, which still will only sell to you if you have a signed doctor referral.

coastlover Jun 13, 2019 12:57 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Hmmm. Supervisor Joan Hartmann also received over $12,000 in October 2017 from Big Cannabis. Right before some of the major votes. You can see the money she got on the county website.

Roger Jun 13, 2019 03:40 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

I would think these so called "Big Cannabis" campaign contributions that some of you are hinting might be pay offs would be alot more something is fishy with these comments.

a-1571562723 Jun 13, 2019 11:54 AM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

This article is such bad news for Carpinteria businesses and home owners who are not associated with the MJ industry. So sad on so many levels. Carp was famous for its beaches, and now it is infamous for weed and skunk smell.

Crystalandmaui Jun 14, 2019 07:50 AM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Maybe they as you say, have a right, I certainly feel that having marijuana growing in small community cities is wrong, this kind of agriculture should’ve been place far from The city. And. This is bull crap, how come so many been busted and closed down, who really has the monopoly on this? Talk about illegal doings. So many of you have an opinion on where the homeless should be or not be, but now you want to tell the people who pay taxes, and live here , to shut up and accept this. If my kids were going to school in Carpinteria I would totally being protesting, I wouldn’t want this kind stuff influencing my child when I’m trying to get them an education and to stay in school, not to think about marijuana all day because that’s all they smell all day. So stop being. So selfish and think about others. Move it out of the city.

Crystalandmaui Jun 14, 2019 08:04 AM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Maybe they as you say, have a right, I certainly feel that having marijuana growing in small community cities is wrong, this kind of agriculture should’ve been place far from The city. And. This is bull crap, how come so many been busted and closed down, who really has the monopoly on this? Talk about illegal doings. So many of you have an opinion on where the homeless should be or not be, but now you want to tell the people who pay taxes, and live here , to shut up and accept this. If my kids were going to school in Carpinteria I would totally being protesting, I wouldn’t want this kind stuff influencing my child when I’m trying to get them an education and to stay in school, not to think about marijuana all day because that’s all they smell all day. So stop being. So stop being so selfish and think about others. Move it out of the city.

a-1571562723 Jun 13, 2019 07:12 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

If they could simply eliminate the odor it would go a long way toward calming those folks down who are concerned about their property values falling. I happen to like the smell, but my partner hates it, so we no longer stop at Fosters Freeze in Carp each weekend for a pineapple milkshake. The next nearest Fosters is in Lompoc!

a-1571562723 Jun 13, 2019 11:39 AM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Where are the environmental groups? They protest and litigate over every tiny lizard and insect, yet in the face of this widespread cannabis mess they are completely absent. What about protecting the citizens of Carpinteria who now have to wear medical-grade respirators because of the pervasive stench of marijuana? Who knows what the future health impacts will be from high concentrations of unknown and potentially dangerous hydrocarbons floating around. Or how about the California Environmental Protection Agency, why are they not engaged? Here is the first sentence from CalEPA’s mission statement: “Our mission is to restore, protect and enhance the environment, to ensure public health, environmental quality and economic vitality.”

a-1571562723 Jun 14, 2019 11:17 AM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Terpenes are emitted by many plants, for example pine trees. There is no evidence that the emissions from these facilities is harmful in any way.

a-1571562723 Jun 14, 2019 08:40 AM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

To 03:36 and others: 5:00 PM means this:The cannabis plant consists of a wide variety of chemicals and compounds. About 140 of these belong to a large class of aromatic organic hydrocarbons known as terpenes. These become most prevalent just before the female flower fully matures. So, yes, MJ plants do create hydrocarbons that are easily absorbed through inhalation.

a-1571562723 Jun 13, 2019 05:00 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Maybe it's because there is no legitimate environmental concern from running pesticide-free greenhouses that recapture water. Environmental groups won't take the bait on volatile organic compounds because volatile organic compounds are everywhere on earth. They're not stupid.

GeneralTree Jun 13, 2019 02:40 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Thank former Republican EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. In 2017 Pruit stated " “disapproval is reasonable because the EPA does not believe that Congress intended to use [policy] for the purpose of facilitating activities that generally are in violation of federal law.” The EPA won't regulate harmful pesticides because it is not legal at the federal level. Legalize it at the Federal level and then bingo.

PitMix Jun 13, 2019 01:09 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Someone pointed out that the citizens of Carpinteria were more at risk from aerial spraying of pesticides than they are from pot which can only have a very low level of pesticide. I once looked into buying a house there next to an ag field but we didn't close for just that reason. That being said, they need to do something about that smell!

Factotum Jun 13, 2019 01:07 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Environmental hot heads like EDC have been missing in action over vagrancy camps rank pollution of our waterways and public spaces too. Why is that - why do they only attack private enterprise operations and not pollution where ever it exists. They are hardly a moral voice in our community. They are running a partisan agenda, while claiming they are a public benefit non-profit.

Factotum Jun 13, 2019 10:07 AM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Between the public employee unions, pot and iIndian casinos, we knew upfront what we were getting electing Das Williams and Gregg Hart to any public office. Why exactly were voters so willing to get exactly what these three very lucrative special forces were paying for? Montecito and Carpinteria, why did you elect Das Williams? City of Santa Barbara, Noleta and Goleta, why did you elect Gregg Hart?

a-1571562723 Jun 14, 2019 10:04 AM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

2:38 - I got news for you - ALL defense attorneys "work deals" with the DA. It's part of the job. Ever heard of a plea bargain? It's the law, not a conspiracy. Settle down.

a-1571562723 Jun 13, 2019 02:38 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Josh Lynn is another local clown who's totally tied into the DA's office work deals all day long. As long as he's sitting fat it's all that matters. His main agenda, make a name for HIMSELF at anyone's expense.

yacht rocked Jun 13, 2019 09:14 AM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Hike up the Franklin Trail behind Carp High, then turn around and look down at Carp Valley. The number of new greenhouses and related structures (packing plants, loading docks, parking areas, access roads) is astounding. Long time flower growers have converted and big syndicates have snapped up leases and land. Casitas Pass Rd is lined with greenhouse workers' parked cars. Large obscurely-marked trucks lumber Foothill, Cravens Lane, Santa Monica Rd, and Via Real. Money's flowing and the stink of skunkweed blows over town during the nightly offshore breezes. How does this play out long term? Seems to me that input costs (greenhouses, land, labor, transportation, security, water, etc) are much cheaper in Barstow and Palmdale. But after all these greenhouses are built and the farmland is paved over, won't the next move by these owners be to address the need for South Coast housing by then asking for new subdivisions and housing development. Das and his industry supporters have kicked off a short and long term disaster for keeping Carp "the last SoCal Beach Town" and Carp Valley semi-rural.

a-1571562723 Jun 13, 2019 05:04 PM
LA Times Exposes Santa Barbara's Marijuana Boom

Misinformed or lying through your teeth? There are no new greenhouses. They've been there all along. You can't build new greenhouses in Carpinteria. Many existing greenhouses decided to switch plants. Carpinteria grew the most flowers in the U.S. for decades in those greenhouses, but that business died. Reading these comments is insane. This isn't the real world.

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