Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

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Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars
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Marijuana field (stock image)

By Jerry Roberts of Newsmakers

Community conflict over cannabis remains Topic A in Santa Barbara’s political whirl, more than a week after the L.A. Times dropped its epic take on how the county came to be California’s capital of cultivation.

The story fueled a political narrative, pushed by a posse of outraged citizens, galvanized by Carpinteria-based national journalist Ann Louise Bardach, that casts Supervisor Das Williams as the villain of the piece -- an alleged Rasputin of Reefer responsible for passage of a county pot ordinance heavily weighted towards growers that, among other features, has yielded the two largest weed tracts on the planet.

No surprise, Das takes great issue with this baleful characterization, and defended the equity of the ordinance, not to mention his pure and blameless heart, in an appearance this week before the Carp city council, which unanimously passed a measure condemning the county for ignoring local concerns on Monday night before multitudes.

As the two sides of the story clashed at the event, ably chronicled by no less a figure than the Angry Poodle, Mr. Cranky Pants cast his failing eyesight upon the political landscape, in an effort to map its latest contours amid the fog of war and the haze of herb.

Das Williams (photo: wikipedia)

Joe Sez No

Attorney Joe Cole, former chair of the Montecito Planning Commission, knocks down speculation that he’s plotting a challenge to Das, who’s running for re-election in the First District, which includes Carp, Montecito and much of the city.

As the anti Das-forces actively seek to recruit a worthy contender into the race, Joltin’ Joe told us his campaign timetable is “never in a million years” and cited William Tecumseh Sherman’s iconic quote:  “'If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve.'”

Joe Cole (Photo: Joseph Cole Law)

Laura Sez Maybe

Laura Capps, non-profit consultant and veep of the SB School Board, is being heavily importuned to launch an insurgent, if decidedly uphill, bid against Das, so it seemed noteworthy that she was sitting in the front row at the big Carp meeting.

“I’m considering it,” is all Laura, a frequent panelist on “Newsmakers TV” would say about the matter; for a reporter who’s frittered away decades interpreting the carefully calibrated words of politicians, the comment seemed an intriguing, if slight, advance over “I haven’t ruled it out,” which she's uttered as her stock comment in recent weeks. 

Laura Capps (Photo: Community Environmental Council)

Instant Analysis

Laura would enjoy significant assets in a campaign against Das, starting with her last name, not to mention skill for political messaging, policy chops, born-and-raised community connections and enough campaign angels to counter-balance, if not overcome, the natural fundraising advantage of the incumbent. 

Despite a bad news cycle, Das remains formidable, however, and make no mistake, her candidacy would set off a brawl that would test and strain Democratic alliances, friendships and factions.

Das, who made his bones building and running field operations for Dem candidates would start with a considerable edge in campaign organization, buttressed by ideological support mustered and rallied by, among others, behind-the-scenes partisan bigwig Daraka Larimore-Hall, for whom trying to take out a true-blue progressive like Williams would amount to heresy.

Times a wastin’

Don’t forget that the Legislature and ex-Governor Jerry Brown advanced the date of the 2020 statewide primary, when the First District seat will be on the ballot, from its traditional perch in June to next March 3, in a bid to make California more relevant in the presidential race.

This means that the legal deadline for filing candidacy papers is Dec. 6, with the filing period officially opening on Nov. 12. As a practical matter, Capps would have to make her choice long before that, however; for starters, the local Dem central committee is scheduled to hold its endorsement meeting for the seat on July 11. Stay tuned.

Good Golly Ms. Mollie

It seems to have escaped notice that the single biggest winner amid all the sturm und drang stirred up by the LAT pot piece is SB uberpolitical consultant Mollie Culver, who benefitted simply by the fact that her name never appeared in reporter Joe Mozingo’s yarn; instead he noted merely that Supervisor Gregg Hart had hired an unnamed “marijuana lobbyist as his chief of staff.” 

An old-school consultant who believes that keeping a low-profile is good business, Mollie played a key behind-the-scenes role as an advocate for the industry during the drafting of the county’s cannabis ordinance; during the same period, she managed campaigns for Rep. Salud Carbajal, SB Mayor Cathy Murillo and councilman Eric Friedman and Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte, among others.

In 2017 she also worked on behalf of Gregg, who won a walkover council victory in the city’s District 6, before he promptly turned around and won election to the Board of Supes in 2018, whereupon he made Mollie his top aide at the county.

Perched on the public payroll, Culver recently added two new, Democratic-endorsed clients to her city council stable – appointed incumbent Meagan Harmon in District 6 and Planning Commissioner Mike Jordan, an early favorite in District 2 – and now sits atop the local consultant heap. 

This just in

All that said, Newsmakers has learned that Mollie no longer is Salud's campaign consultant - our man in Washington has hired on the steadfast veteran Ben Romo for that gig. News you'll read nowhere else.

Pic tells 1000 words

Amid its Proustian-length verbiage, the LAT piece also was notable for superb art - -- don’t miss the one-minute, drone’s eye video of 30 acres of pot hoop houses in the Santa Rita Hills – which included a droll image of deputy county executive officer Dennis Bozanich.

Bozanich, aka “The Pot Czar,” is pictured with his schnozz buried in a ganja plant, copping a big ole snuffle of weed as if inhaling a fine chardonnay.

“The picture of Czar Bozanich speaks acres and acres of words,” writes one loyal reader. “He should be sniffing his own fingers.”

It’s worth noting that while Bozanich’s policy acumen shaped a local law that led to an outbreak of political hostilities, the city of Santa Barbara has rolled out its own ordinance with little outcry over similar issues. A Newsmakers' tip-o-the-hat for that to Anthony Wagner, civilian PIO for the SB police department, who did much of the heavy lifting on it. 

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CoastWatch Jun 25, 2019 12:45 PM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

Das has done more to destroy the quality of life in the County then any other politician- Whether it's the pot growing or giving the Chumash "Carte Blanche" ... For Das, as a career political hack, it's all about who is supporting his campaigns - follow the money.
Unfortunately, for Santa Barbara County, the predominately Democratic-liberals dominate with $ and will support this terrible choice of a "Representative..."

Factotum Jun 26, 2019 10:41 AM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

Das left the city of SB drowning in pension debt when sitting on city council, turned the state over to the teachers unions when in the state Assembly so our K-12 schools now rank #45, and now is turning our county into the largest pot industry land grab the wild west has ever seen. Why does he get elected and re-elected with this string of material damage in his wake - this speaks of the power of your local Democrat unions my friends along with certain odd political opinion setters like the SB Independent. .

Red Creek Jun 25, 2019 01:38 PM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

It's an insult to a "true-blue progressive" to characterize Williams as one after he sold out his district to out of town, out of state pot industry millionaires. So easy to buy, and so unable to take a stand to protect his community, it gives me the creeps. Laura please run.

monkeyboy Jun 25, 2019 03:18 PM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

In a campaign cycle with several legitimate progressives running for the top of the ticket, to call Das a progressive is laughable. He is an empty suited opportunist, always looking to use his current job as a stepping stone to the next government position. The LA Times article only revealed what we know about the Santa Barbara "progressive" scene, a very tightly restricted group of chardonnay sipping elitists who believe they know better than their taxpayer bosses. All it takes a a fishing trip and a concert to buy Das's vote...

PitMix Jun 25, 2019 01:41 PM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

I don't know, I know plenty of dem-liberals that are hopping mad about the pot industry and how the County has mishandled it. Might be enough to make it a nail biter for Williams rather than an incumbent cruise to victory. I wonder why the Democratic machine would have much to say about a non-partisan political office? But of course everything is partisan these days.

Z Jun 25, 2019 03:35 PM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

Dangnabbit, Das the Demoncrat has hornswoggled the Board of Supervisors. Fooled the other members into allowing the devil weed to hijack the whole county guvament. Leastways he isn't taking credit for making Santa Barbara such an attractive locale for temperate zone agriculture.

Factotum Jun 25, 2019 03:41 PM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

Campaign donation disclosure forms filed with the county elections office will tell you exactly who most butters Das's bread. Public employee unions of various stripes particularly the teachers unions; the Indian casinos mavens; or the pot over-lords. Suspect it is a very unhealthy combination of all three - with the least amount of contributions coming from the unaffiliated local moms and pops who want independence, and not special interests driving local policy decisions.

a-1561562320 Jun 26, 2019 08:18 AM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

Very true Factotum. But the voters keep voting for him, or whoever the local democrat party/unions tell them to, anyway.

Crystalandmaui Jun 26, 2019 07:04 AM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

This is no different than the Cartel , they’re all hypocrites, whomever has the bigger pockets, bigger backers, that’s who will win. Not fair.
The big pay off. That’s what it’s come down to.
If your not a lying cheating criminal, and getting the big pay offs from the drug lords, your not going to win. Wow so now Santa Barbara county sounds like it’s all about the marijuana. So sad.

Rinconer Jun 26, 2019 07:33 AM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

When Edhat says, “S.B. County has the largest weed tracts on the planet”, it seems that Edhat is unfamiliar with Humboldt, Ca. & the Golden Triangle.

PitMix Jun 26, 2019 10:11 AM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

As far as I know, Humboldt County hasn't licensed acres of hoop houses as far as the eye can see. SB County has now licensed 38% of the pot acreage in the whole state! That is saying something for our little county. I know that cities think this industry will solve their budget problems, but so far SB County has gotten much less than they thought they would, and Lompoc is having severe budget problems. There is a disconnect here.

a-1561581638 Jun 26, 2019 01:40 PM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

@Rinconer - the article was written as an Opinion piece by Jerry Roberts, not edhat. Perhaps you email Jerry with your opinion.

Rinconer Jun 26, 2019 09:18 PM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

38% seems awfully high, pun intended, like to see your source. Would think that Humboldt, Adelanto, & Desert Pot Springs have much more growers than S.B..
Maybe it’s a reflection of the license administrators dragging their feet elsewhere.

yacht rocked Jun 26, 2019 10:20 AM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

Even more disconcerting that all the current consequences of Carp Valley greenhouse and infrastructure development (aka 'pave-over') is the answer to the question of what comes next? All this growing activity can be done at far less cost elsewhere, from China Lake to the Imperial Valley, while still meeting quality standards. Once the growers make enough money to move their operations elsewhere, then what comes next? Hard to imagine that all the greenhouses, loading docks, storage, and pavement will be removed and the wonderful farm/orchard land that lies beneath will be restored. Instead, developers will push to replace the greenhouses with high density 'smart housing' and live/telework communities. Such a shame that those who have worked so hard to preserve the Carp Valley and 'last small beach town' were sold out by greedy neighbors, politicians, and pot industry wildcatters.

DBD Jun 26, 2019 12:28 PM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

I would like to hear how pot cultivation has changed anyone's life here in the county. I have lived in SB my entire life and travel often to the valley and Carp. Aside from smelling weed in carp a couple years ago, it has literally had ZERO impact on any quality of life and is not noticeable. If it were not for all the dramatic news articles out there, i would not even be aware it was still a thing. I'd love to fix some of the current issues before coming up with new ones.

PitMix Jun 27, 2019 09:15 AM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

DBD, you have to have some connection to the pot business. We thank you for your support.

RHS Jun 27, 2019 10:51 AM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

DBD--drive up 101 and look to the west of Los Alamos and observe the ugly white caterpillar tents snaking in the foothills destroying the natural views and pleasant aspect of this area. This is just one such environmental impact that is not needed. We can grown the product in existing facilities and in environmentally controlled ways. But the greed is out of hand and we are doing what the gold miners did in the gold rush with water mining and destruction.

DBD Jun 27, 2019 11:50 AM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

You are aware that these hoops are used for all types of ag correct? Also if you look at the county planning or cdfa websites for APN's west of los alamos, and then compare it to the historical imagery on google maps, you will see that the parcels that have nearly all the hoops are not growing cannabis, and if they are, it is being grown illegally.

What i am getting at as a life long county resident seeing these internet complaints is that not many of them seem to make sense to me, and i'm being open and curious. When asked to back up the quality of life impact, the example given was ag hoops on ag property off the 135(if you have even heard of this highway raise your hand, please). When researching public info, it doesn't even appear these apn's have ever gone through any process to grow cannabis. If we want to get into unappealing visual impacts on the county, ag of any sort(including cannabis) is pretty far down the list IMO.

Regarding the gold rush mentality, its not exactly like everyone has millions of dollars to buy up acres of land in SB county and then spend hundreds of thousands of dollars getting through the permitting process. Last i checked you cant squat on some public/private land and grow whatever you want. If you spend a few hours to educate yourself on the rules and regulations surrounding this industry, you will see that the impact on watersheds and environment in general will be far less than nearly all ag product. If the facts are researched, it might open ones eyes.

TaxiOnna Jul 01, 2019 11:15 AM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

Not to mention the avocado growers are pissed that they can't spray their trees with pesticides because environmental laws are stricter for MJ, which is located in nearby facilities and could be cross-contaminated. It could be argued that pot growers are actually more environmentally friendly than their ag competitors in the area...

RHS Jun 26, 2019 01:04 PM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

As I have followed this story the scandal is not that mj is being grown here but how corruptly that industry seems to go about its business. The purchase of politicians is time honored but we are supposedly more bothered with a deputy county executive officer gets bought (or maybe he just came in a fan from the outside). What is not being noted here is the environmental damage this excess is bringing to our community. Not just bad odors is some neighborhoods but hugely ugly visuals that probably will never be reversed. Sort of like building a multi-story casino I guess. Money will out. I don't live in the 1st but I will not vote for Das for any higher office and I hope someone looks into whether or not the County Executive Office has been compromised.

DBD Jun 26, 2019 01:40 PM
Who's Up, Down & Out in Pot Wars

I would honestly like to know what 'environmental damage' this is bringing to our community. Maybe a few dozen ag fields and greenhouses have a new type of plant being grown, with the most strict rules of any Ag in the history of Ag. Hoops aren't new, greenhouses aren't new. They have been around for decades. I seriously feel like people from other parts of the state/country are in our small town news website comment sections writing about SB county, but have never actually been here. Its bizzare.

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