Credit: Paul Wellman

I just read Joe Mozingo’s article in the Los Angeles Times about how the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors made our county the “capital of California’s legal pot market.” (He mentioned me as a grower impacted by cannabis.) Simply put, the board sold the county down the river by allowing unlimited marijuana cultivation in our county.

So how did it happen? In a word: lobbying.

Mozingo’s research shows: “Lobbied heavily by the marijuana industry, Santa Barbara County officials opened the door to big cannabis interests in the last two years like no other county in the nation.”

It started in 2017 when the state began issuing temporary licenses, the county initially allowed anyone who signed an affidavit saying they had been growing medical marijuana to apply for a state license. There was no verification of the claim. (As an aside, a greenhouse owner suggested I sign such an affidavit, even though it would be false, just in case it established priority for getting a permit — I didn’t sign.)

Then Mozingo relates how the county’s cannabis policy was developed by Supervisors Das Williams (1st District: S.B. City east of Mission and including Montecito and Carpinteria) and Steve Lavagnino (5th District: Santa Maria and east) who guided Assistant CEO Dennis Bozanich in writing the rules that have brought us to unlimited cultivation. According to Mozingo, marijuana lobbyists and growers had easy and regular access to Williams and Lavagnino, who pushed through everything the cultivators wanted. The only supervisor who opposed the growers’ agenda was Janet Wolf, who retired in 2018 and was replaced by Gregg Hart, whose chief of staff is called a “former marijuana lobbyist’ by Mozingo.

Now Santa Barbara, with under 2 percent of the state’s land mass, has 35 percent of the state-issued cultivation licenses. A lobbyist who headed the California Growers Association told Mozingo this volume is “ludicrous.” The lobbyist estimated that California’s market for legal pot (which is not supposed to leave the state) can be met by 1,100 acres. Mozingo noted, “By the end of May, the growers in Santa Barbara County had applied to plant 1,415 acres.”

Even if you support growing and using marijuana (as I do) but you don’t want our Santa Barbara County to be the pot capital of California (as I don’t), call, write, vote, or simply do as Howard Beale said in the classic film Network: start shouting “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”


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