The County vs. Pot Growers

The County vs. Pot Growers title=
The Island Breeze cannabis operation, shown here at 3376 Foothill Road, is across the road from the entrance to the Polo Condos, a complex of 140 apartments next to the polo grounds. (Credit: Anonymous)
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By Melinda Burns

In a report to the county Board of Supervisors this week, County Counsel Michael Ghizzoni described several enforcement actions initiated by the county against cannabis operations in the Carpinteria Valley and west of Buellton.

Speaking during budget hearings on Tuesday, Ghizzoni told the Board of Supervisors that, acting on eight odor complaints from Carpinteria residents, the county filed a lawsuit in Santa Barbara Superior Court on May 21 against Island View Ranch LLC and Island Breeze Farms LLC – the landowner and operator, respectively, of a two-acre cannabis “grow” at 3376 Foothill Road.

The lawsuit alleges that the business has been a “continuing public nuisance” since at least March of 2019 and should be shut down. It is the county’s first public nuisance lawsuit against a cannabis operation.

Island Breeze, the lawsuit contends, “has not diligently pursued” a zoning permit for more than two years and is illegally growing and packaging commercial cannabis without proper county and state business licenses. Those licenses, it states, can be granted only if a grower is “in the process of complying with local ordinances.”

In another first for the county, Ghizzoni said, the lawsuit also invokes the state’s Unfair Competition Law against a cannabis grower, alleging that Island View and Island Breeze are profiting “to the detriment of lawful cannabis businesses operating in the county” by misleading the public and failing to comply with “regulatory safety measures.”

Representatives of Island View and Island Breeze could not be reached for comment this week. (Island View Ranch also leases land to the Island View flower nursery, which has operated on the property for 20 years. The flower nursery is not a defendant in the county’s lawsuit.)

Revoked licenses

In a separate matter, Sunshine Organics Greens Inc., a 144,000 square-foot greenhouse operation at 6030 Casitas Pass Road, “surrendered” its 12 provisional state licenses for cannabis cultivation to the California Department of Food and Agriculture on June 7, Ghizzoni told the board.

It was another first, he said; the county had previously notified the state agency that Sunshine Organics was not moving expeditiously through its zoning permit application process. Ghizzoni said the county also told state officials that the landowner had withdrawn his authorization for Sunshine Organics to grow cannabis there.

County records show that Joseph Magazino, the Sunshine Organics operator, filed a lawsuit last year against Case Van Wingerden, the property owner; the suit is set for trial in Superior Court on June 15.

Illegal expansion

Finally, on June 4, Ghizzoni told the board, the operators of Lion Eye LLC, a 12-acre outdoor cannabis operation at 7261 Domingos Road west of Buellton, withdrew a lawsuit they had filed against the county.

Ruling in the case in March, Administrative Law Judge Eric Sawyer found that the Lion Eye owner, Elizabeth Story Long, and her agent, Stacey Wooten, had illegally installed 56 hoop houses in 2017 and expanded their cannabis cultivation into a small barn and Quonset hut, in violation of the county zoning ordinance. From a couple hundred marijuana plants in 2015, the operation had expanded to 8,000 plants.

In 2015, Lion Eye was a small medical marijuana “grow.” The county allowed Lion Eye to continue as a “legal, non-conforming” operation after 2015 if it applied for a zoning permit and county and state business licenses. Under the county zoning ordinance, “legal, non-conforming” operations may not be “enlarged, extended or increased” without a permit.

In early 2019, the record shows, acting on a complaint about unpermitted hoop structures at Lion Eye, the county Planning & Development Department sent the operators a notice of zoning violations and gave them 30 days to remove the illegal plantings.

Judge Sawyer found that the installation of 56 hoop-houses at Lion Eye represented “a significant change to the operation of the premises,” noting that the plantings “can now extend throughout more of the year after the weather turns cold.” In addition, he said, the testimony in the case confirmed there had been no marijuana plants in the barn or the hut at Lion Eye in 2015.

The judge upheld a $9,500 fine that the county had assessed against the operators in early 2020 for failing to remove the illegal plantings; he said Long and Wooten were jointly responsible for paying it.

As of a county inspection on June 2, Ghizzoni said this week, all of the illegal plantings at Lion Eye have been removed, and the operators are pursuing a zoning permit and business licenses.

Melinda Burns volunteers as a freelance journalist in Santa Barbara as a community service; she offers her news reports to multiple local publications, at the same time, for free.

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channelcat5 Jun 13, 2021 07:42 PM
The County vs. Pot Growers

Then Zerohawk…. You must be a person that gains financially from this Marijuana Outburst!
I’m a Santa Barbara local, born and raised here. I know, you are not.

channelcat5 Jun 13, 2021 07:27 PM
The County vs. Pot Growers

Does anyone see the correlation of our once again “drought” with the amount of water it takes to grow weed in California? It used to be Almonds and Rice fields.
We chose this, to make our friends that we’re Entrepreneurs and their Millennial Children very, very wealthy. All the while… we have no water. Housing prices will go down.
I guess, be happy, hippy and stoned.

biguglystick Jun 11, 2021 11:08 AM
The County vs. Pot Growers

I would be SO BUMMED if I lived next to that skunky stench. EW. No. I hope the Carp residents have a leg to stand on in court.

LwoodFog Jun 11, 2021 10:11 AM
The County vs. Pot Growers

This gives me hope for my legal battles guys! I live in Southwest Lompoc and wake up to the smell of s**t at least 1 day a week from the cauliflower/broccoli/brussel sprouts etc. I mean really smelly stuff! I wake up and think "I don't like this smell...I will complain because I don't like it." So I hope I can get 8 people to complain to the county about this ongoing nuisance of an odor we experience so the county can sue these ag companies. I feel nauseas and get headaches from the strong fertilizer and fresh cut crop odor that wafts daily from the west through the town of Lompoc, most likely bringing pesticide drift as well, and using a LOT of water. I wish they only grew flowers and strawberries or something. I mean, if it doesn't smell "bad" I'm all for it, but any crop that has a strong odor that I personally don't like needs to go! Juuust joking. You see, I consider myself a reasonable adult and realize this is a new burgeoning viable industry just like the wine industry that started here, so has the cannabis industry. It's not going any where. This is America, the land of free capitalism right? If these farms are illegally expanding than that is.....Illegal, and should be handled accordingly, but the complaints about odor just make me laugh. It smells for a couple months out of the year?? Get over it or move. According to the county, taxes received from cannabis operations have increased every quarter since the first quarter of 2018-19, and officials have said they are now one of the county’s top four sources of discretionary revenue. Lompoc for example now has the new high-tech Merso labs and multiple new stores have opened in buildings that once sat empty and derelict bringing jobs to locals, and increased revenue to a town often seen as having no future or positive progression. I just saw a group of Asian tourists holding up the peace sign taking pictures in front of a dispensary in old town Lompoc just Monday!. TOURISTS!! ....IN LOMPOC!!

LwoodFog Jun 11, 2021 01:57 PM
The County vs. Pot Growers

Ya! Keep that tourist revenue away! Keep Lompoc in the red. I don't like the idea of a thriving Old Town with shops and restaurants and people milling about enjoying life and spending money! Bahumbug! I want it all to myself and I happen to enjoy the outdated 1970's "landscaping" of weeds in barrels, pink painted rocks atop rebar, or crab grass and gopher holes and dirty sidewalks....the crumbling roads and parks are a joy, the understaffed police and fire don't need any help, and the way the trash blows about in the wind is so charming. No tourists! Locals and tweakers only! AH yes... Keep it the way it is, so it can hold on to those nicknames it's earned like LOMPUKE and LOMPTON. Of course I'm just joking, and enjoy the "small town feel" just as much as the next guy, but don't you think Lompoc could use some tourists/tourist revenue? Solvang is like a section of Disneyland now, but I still feel like it has a "small town feel". Lompoc is an old California Mission town on Historic Highway 1, it deserves some tourism. It just needs to LOOK better.

ZeroHawk Jun 11, 2021 12:45 PM
The County vs. Pot Growers

LWOODFOG, thank you. Pit, grow up and grow a brain too. Saying that weed is just a cash crop proves my point that you know jack squat about this. Do some reading and research and come back to the thread with facts. Here are a few. The constitution is on hemp paper. Most paper was hemp before the logging industry started lining the pockets of our government reps. Sails were hemp. Jeans were hemp and a lot of other clothing and fiber was hemp. The original FLAG is made out of hemp. Hemp seeds provide more protein than a soybean and have been consumed for hundreds of years. My brother has really bad epilepsy and takes pot to help the seizures and is the only thing he can take without debilitating side affects. Pot has been cultivated here in the states since the beginning. Just now we are seeing more of it for recreational use. It's used all over the globe for many things. But I suppose it's just a worthless evil narcotic to the folks here. Because they really know a lot!

ZeroHawk Jun 11, 2021 12:39 PM
The County vs. Pot Growers

you eat cauliflower? how about hops? hops smells like skunk weed and we grow a lot of hops here. let's complain about that. Or do you enjoy microbrews? Nature smells. So do we. if any of you have a valid complaint other than a scent, i'd be curious to know what it is. Because whining about a scent is really just that, you or the complainee being a whiner and nothing more.

ZeroHawk Jun 11, 2021 12:36 PM
The County vs. Pot Growers

this guy is right. why aren't you folks wanking about the stench of onion, broccoli and cauliflower? It stinks worst than pot. How about complaining to mother nature about the way skunks smell too. Hey let's all just bitch and complain because we personally don't like something, then let's make up a bunch of ridiculous baseless complaints. It smells bad. There is an odor. It's making my throat hurt! OMG. You people really are just over the top weird. Sorry, but this isn't going away nor will it change much. 1% of tax revenue? HAH! Try much larger numbers and you'll be more accurate. This has also brought in retail money, hundreds of local jobs and taxes. But you want to whine about it because you don't smoke or consume it yourself? Ok well i don't drink wine and am sure sick and tired of the wineries hogging up all of the land that could be devloped for more housing so we don't have a shortage of homes. Oh yeah and i'm also tired of reading about people drinking that wine and cause wrecks and deaths. So let's whine about wine for a while. The vineyards also produce chemical runoff into the streams. I heard a person complain about the emissions from a row of generators. Really? Well according to the map and your location in buellton, you're right near the 101 and 246. So that smell isn't from the big rigs and constant traffic and congestion and farm equipment? Right. Lol I find if amusing how some of you suddenly know a lot of intel on this, but really dont...know jack. squat.

sacjon Jun 11, 2021 11:39 AM
The County vs. Pot Growers

PIT - oh wow that's very 1950s of you! Cannabis is only grown so people "can forget about their miserable lives?" Got to be one of the most simple and weak minded comments I've seen in a while. A) cannabis does much more than make you "forget your life" (I think you're thinking of alcohol here) B) most people who smoke/ingest cannabis are pretty happy with their lives. I know I am. Please say you're being sarcastic.

biguglystick Jun 11, 2021 11:07 AM
The County vs. Pot Growers

Tourists in Lompoc.... I never thought I'd see the day. Ughhhhhhhh. We are doomed. I am NOT being sarcastic. I long for the days when our little towns were LOCAL and not so damned touristy. That stupid wine movie ruined everything.

LwoodFog Jun 11, 2021 10:41 AM
The County vs. Pot Growers

That's just a lazy argument Pit and I hope you sense my sarcasm. You saying you "Have nothing against cannabis" and then go on to label cannabis as simply "a cash crop designed to get people high so they can forget about their miserable lives" is sensationalist nonsense and disingenuous at best. Or maybe that was your attempt at sarcasm? Either way tell that to the millions of people who use it for medicinal purposes like a suffering epileptic child. Yes people use it recreationally just like alcohol Pit. When you take a drink is it because you want "to forget about your miserable life?" Geez...tone it down bucco. Driving around and "getting high" or drunk on wine is ok though because those wineries have been here since....the 70's? Plus cannabis IS a "historic edible crop." and with that I say.. down with the cabbage and broccoli!!!

PitMix Jun 11, 2021 10:22 AM
The County vs. Pot Growers

Yeah, because historic edible crop practices that have been in place for decades to give people something to eat is the same thing as a cash crop designed to get people high so they can forget about their miserable lives, right? If the crop was there before you moved in, it is the same thing as moving next to an airport and then complaining about the noise.

PitMix Jun 11, 2021 08:46 AM
The County vs. Pot Growers

So let me understand this, because of the weak ordinances the supes passed on cannabis, the County has to SUE nonconforming operations to bring them into compliance? It would be funny if it was such a pain to the neighbors. I will never vote for any of the current Canna Barbara Supes for the remainder of my voting life.

fitz Jun 11, 2021 07:27 AM
The County vs. Pot Growers

Some on the BOS were falling over themselves during budget hearings when 'spending' the cannabis money. Out of a $1 billion budget, I see that cannabis brought in a little over 1 % of the full budget. I'm not against cannabis but let's keep the 'benefits' in perspective and make sure the detrimental impacts don't outweigh this paltry percentage of the total county budget. Most of the budget $ comes from residents via taxes, those same residents that are suffering from bad odors and air pollution (see Santa Rosa Rd. operation) and other negative impacts of the cannabis industry.

NotReallyDave Jun 10, 2021 08:09 PM
The County vs. Pot Growers

Good for the County Counsel to be listening to the citizens and their complaints about ongoing public nuisances and illegal zoning violations. Enforcement. Enforcement. Enforcement.

yacht rocked Jun 10, 2021 07:40 PM
The County vs. Pot Growers

Das is also pushing the expansion of housing into the Carp valley ag area. Stop it, Das.

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