Paul Wellman (file)

Surpassing Humboldt County for the number-one spot, Santa Barbara County growers now hold the most temporary licenses for cannabis cultivation statewide. County Supervisor Janet Wolf, who represents the Goleta Valley, expressed frustration on Tuesday that it appeared there was little she and her colleagues could do at this point to prevent the region from becoming the state’s cannabis capital. “We need to know where these places are,” she said. “They are growing exponentially. I am concerned, and I don’t know if we can open the door to caps now.” In other words, the genie is out of the bottle.

More than 450 temporary licenses have been issued to growers countywide, according to state records. These are supposed to go only to growers of medical marijuana who have been operating in the county for years and with signed affidavits. (County officials have previously admitted they have no way of verifying this.) Everyone else has to wait for an annual license until the county’s cannabis ordinance is formally in place.

One license, however, does not necessarily translate to one farm; a single operator can hold dozens of licenses. For instance, Central Coast Farmers Market Management holds more than 100 licenses. Plus, there are all kinds of partnerships. And some businesses plan to have multiple points of the supply chain ​— ​nurseries, cultivation, manufacturing, and retail ​— ​in a single location.

Agriculture is the county’s number-one industry, which could explain why area growers have already obtained the most temporary licenses statewide. Many farmers, particularly in Carpinteria, once grew many other crops before they switched to cannabis. This ever-morphing industry is giving conventional farmers pause, and there’s worry, for instance, that county cannabis rules could set a precedent for placing restrictions on broccoli and strawberries.


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