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Santa Barbara County Supervisor Das Williams’s comments in the Santa Barbara Independent and at the Carpinteria City Council’s special meeting on June 17 concerning the massive cannabis operations in the county struck many constituents as insult to injury. We are weary of his claims that he is trying to “make it better” when, in fact, he created this situation.
Within weeks of taking office in January 2017, Supervisor Williams advanced the idea of an ad hoc committee with Supervisor Steve Lavagnino to draft a Cannabis Ordinance. He then proposed a registry for self-declared existing growers to be given preference, and establish an unverified baseline that would later be used as justification for the sham affidavits used to obtain state licenses with no verification of pre-2016 compliance. Those 2017-18 meetings are accessible online and show Williams aggressively advocating for the cannabis industry’s wish list: no limit on state licenses nor acreage, and allowing for license stacking and multiple licenses on a single parcel. The marijuana lobby continues to dictate policy through today. Exhibit A: a letter from the just-created “North County Farmers Guild” for Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting to mirror some of the meaningless, insignificant changes being put forth by Supervisor Williams and staff.
After Prop. 64, all other counties in the state either banned marijuana cultivation or adopted strict policies requiring growers of “medicinal marijuana” to prove legal nonconforming status of parcels; the requirements included compliance with mitigations in order to keep growing and the obtaining of state licenses.
However, Williams and Lavagnino, along with the unelected “Cannabis Czar” Dennis Bozanich, blocked Planning Commission recommendations for a process of verification before growers were authorized to obtain state licenses. As a result, hundreds of state licenses were given to pot growers in S.B. County who still lack local permits.
We are also troubled by the significant contributions to Williams from members of CARP (Cannabis Association for Responsible Producers) in 2017-18 at the same time that Williams cast crucial votes that favored the industry. Indeed, his comments, as quoted in the Los Angeles Times on June 15, are damning, assuring cannabis lobbyists regarding costs of appeal: “Don’t worry, I’ll fix it with a 50/50 recovery model,” thus saving cannabis growers a bundle and shifting the costs to taxpayers. Why would Williams tell one major Carpinteria pot grower: “Don’t tell anyone,” if he did not fully realize that what he was doing was dead wrong? His comments, role, and conflicts of interest merit his recusal from future cannabis votes and warrant an independent inquiry, which the Board of Supervisors owes the people of Santa Barbara.
Our position for common-sense regulation of marijuana has zero to do with our approval of personal adult pot use. Supervisors must stop saying opponents of the cannabis lunacy in S.B. are “prohibitionists” when they know that to be a lie. And they should please tell their PR lobby to stop claiming that local pot sales can pay for free college education for all in S.B., when less than $5 million has been collected, barely covering enforcement.
Here’s what needs to be done by the supervisors on Tuesday, though hardly all inclusive:
(1) Do something to protect Carpinteria’s children and schools — Currently the high school, Howard, and Cate schools, as well both Boys and Girls Club, are surrounded by pot grows, causing students and teachers headaches and respiratory ills. Minimally, enforce federal law requiring a 1,000-foot border between cannabis and schools, and facilities for children, though a one-mile boundary is far more desirable and effective. (Hence, instead of making tens of millions a year for leasing their greenhouses for cannabis operations, greenhouse owners might make a fraction less on their county-gifted bonanza.) The upshot: far more protection from the noxious odors, emissions, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to students, children, and residents. Crucially important here is to change the buffer measurement from “property line to premise” to “property line to property line, which simply sanctions more pot plants.
(2) Adopt the Urgency Ordinances submitted by the S.B. Coalition for Responsible Cannabis’s attorneys — It is paramount that the county adopt the Urgency Ordinances to minimize the many nuisance impacts of odor from ongoing, unpermitted cannabis grows in the Coastal Zone and inland areas — as urged by the unprecedented Resolutions of the City of Goleta and the City of Carpinteria condemning this Ordinance.
(3) Require Conditional Use Permit in AG-I and AG-II zones — Indeed, the Planning Commission recommendation includes a conditional use permit for all commercial cannabis activities on all AG-I lots and in the Coastal Zone. The public process is completely circumvented in AG-II zones because the Land Use Permit approval is ministerial and has no public hearing. Impose caps on cannabis licenses and acreage, and stop the scam of “stacking licenses.”
(4) Terpene and VOC Emission abatement in AG-I and AG-II Zones — Odors are only a byproduct of emissions and are not responsible for headaches nor array of health issues that scientists are now discovering. Emissions must be controlled through carbon filtering which eliminates risk, not mask it.
(5) Visual and safety buffers — The Board of Supervisors needs to adopt an agricultural buffer of at least 1,500 feet from existing residences and existing agriculture (i.e., vineyards and avocados).
(6) Maximum acreage cap — The ordinance does not set maximum acres for cultivation indoors or outdoors, and does not cap the number of cannabis cultivation permits that can be issued. All counties have implemented acreage caps except Santa Barbara. Currently, an astounding 1,415 acres are pending permitting.
On behalf of Concerned Carpinterians: Minos Athanassiadis, Valerie Bentz, Pat Blakeslee, James Claffey, John Culbertson, Katherine Culbertson, Chuck DalPozzo, Wendy Davis, George Davidson, Judy Dean MD, Eileen Dietsch, Linda Ekstrom, Paul Ekstrom, Joan Esposito, Steve Figler, Maureen Foley, Gregory Gandrud, Perry Gibson, Llew Goodfield, Marilyn Goodfield, Robyn Geddes, Lawrence Friedman, L. Pennell Hannon, Cathy Henzsey, Sherry Jeffe, Joseph Ilovento MD, Kim Jones, Ken Kraus, Perry Kraus, Robert Lesser, Vincent James Mannoia, Lionel Neff, Merrily Peebles, Ken Pfeiffer, Elizabeth Pretzinger, Bobbie Offen, Elizabeth Josephine Poje, Tracey Reif, Nanci Robertson, Rob Salomon, Pat Saragosa, Zave Saragosa, Alicia Sorkin, Jill Stassinos, Sarah Trigueiro