I just returned from the August 20 Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting at which they were considering the second level of appeal against a permit for G&K Farm to grow cannabis in Carpinteria. I live very close to G&k Farm and so had a personal interest in attending. I just have two comments:
First, I was saddened by the fact that of the 39 citizens who were allowed to speak, well more than 50 to 60 percent were employees of cannabis growers in Carpinteria. In some cases they were on the legal team for G&K. So the chair of the board rightfully refused to allow those to speak because presumably they are not residents. But even among those residents permitted to speak, the vast majority were employed by the growers. To me this shows that these hearings are probably of not of much value. How hard is it for employers to get these employees to show up and speak? On the other hand it takes a great deal of independent concern and effort for a single citizen to find out where and when the meeting occurs then to make the effort to come to a supervisors meeting. So I hope the supervisors consider carefully who they heard from today.
Second, it seems to me that the fundamental issue is obviously odor. Giving the benefit of the doubt to G&K Farm, that they are a model of observing all the rules and regulations, and perhaps they are, the fact remains as one local non-employee speaker said, “The stench and the odor are still horrible!”
So how can that be? Either (1) those growers who have an odor control system in place are not using a good one. (There are many questions raised about the Byers system.) And therefore these growers should consider, and the Board of Supervisors should require, the use of closed greenhouses with carbon filtration. Yes, carbon filtration is expensive, but it would allow the county to actually enforce its own requirement that the smell not be perceived outside the boundaries of the property. Or (2) Perhaps the odors we presently are dealing with come from illegal growers. In that case the county still has a responsibility to track them down.
But the bottom line is that these odors are overpowering and create not just a nuisance as that is defined legally, but genuine discomfort and ill health.
My takeaway is that if the Board of Supervisors is asking citizens to be patient and wait until all the growers are permitted so that they can enforce county regulations regarding odor, at which time the odors will disappear, then that’s not an unreasonable request. But the problem with it is that should the permits be granted and the odor controls prove to be ineffective, what assurance do we have that the supervisors will then force the growers to adopt an improved system like carbon filtration, or track down all those growers that are growing illegally! What leverage will citizens have then?
Why not do the right thing now and require carbon filtration with closed greenhouses! We all want the industry to thrive! We just don’t want to be driven out of our homes by the stench and perhaps to an early grave!