With their backs up against an early December deadline, the County of Santa Barbara’s plan to outright ban storefront-style medical marijuana dispensaries received unanimous votes of support this week from both the Montecito and the County Planning Commissions. A previous plan would have allowed such dispensaries in a small number of carefully selected parts of the county’s unincorporated areas, but the Board of Supervisors shot that down earlier this month. So on Wednesday, both planning commissions voted to move forward the newly crafted and overarching prohibition of medicinally purposed cannabis clubs in all of those unincorporated areas.

Paul Wellman (file)

Two weeks ago, citing conflict between state and federal laws on marijuana and the notion that the City of Santa Barbara offers enough options for those in need, the supervisors voted 4 to 1 to send the proposed ordinance back to the drawing board, despite it receiving wide public and staff support at the County Planning Commission a couple weeks earlier. For the majority of the supes, the original ordinance — which would have allowed only seven possible locations peppered among Vandenberg Village, eastern Goleta, the unincorporated west end of Santa Barbara, New Cuyama, and Orcutt — was too permissive. The message from the board majority was simple: We want a complete ban.

1st District Planning Commissioner Michael Cooney
Paul Wellman

Pressed with a December 6 deadline when the county’s current moratorium would end, the county’s Long Range Planning staff started anew and put together an ordinance that simply says no to any and all medical marijuana storefronts. (Non-storefront collectives are not impacted by the new regulations.) Keeping apace with the looming deadline, both planning commissions discussed the new ban on Wednesday. Despite varying degrees of misgivings about the new ordinance — 1st District Planning Commissioner Michael Cooney went as far as to opine, “I think we were on a better path the first time” — both commissions gave the thumbs up to the ban.

Wednesday’s approvals set the stage for the supes to once again take on the topic on November 1.


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