Santa Barbara County, approaching the end of a temporary two-year moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas, appears headed toward a total ban on storefronts rather than an ordinance that would allow for some dispensaries to exist in certain areas.
The ordinance proposed by staff Tuesday — and unanimously approved by both the County and the Montecito Planning Commissions — had very specific instructions on where a dispensary would be allowed. The storefronts wouldn’t have been allowed within 1,000 feet of a school, park, or day-care center, within 300 feet of a residential zone, or within 1,500 feet of any other cannabis club, leaving only seven potential sites within the county. Those areas included Vandenberg Village, eastern Goleta, the unincorporated west end of Santa Barbara, New Cuyama, and Orcutt.
But 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr was the only boardmember who supported the proposed ordinance. On Tuesday, she noted that, while there may be concerns, just because the county might allow such storefronts in certain places, the ordinance by no means suggests the county would just start approving medical marijuana joints all over the place, and that applicants would still undergo a rigorous approval process. The charge for a total ban Tuesday was led by Supervisors Joni Gray (who said that state and federal laws were too conflicted) and Steve Lavagnino (who said people needing medicinal marijuana could travel to the City of Santa Barbara to get it). Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf suggested in past comments she would support a total ban, and her vote went that way Tuesday. Sheriff Bill Brown also supports a ban.
One of the big question marks lingering over a total ban is what to do with dispensaries currently operating. The moratorium is set to expire on 12/6. To avoid any lapse between the moratorium and a new ordinance, county staff would need a new draft ordinance prepared to go in front of both planning commissions by 10/18 and be back in front of the Board of Supervisors on 11/1, a “very tight” schedule, according to County Development Services Director Dianne Black.
There were four known medical marijuana dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of the county at the time the moratorium went into effect in January 2010 — two have since closed, one because of a criminal investigation and one because of a zoning-enforcement investigation.