If you haven’t read the Los Angeles Times article “The world’s largest pot farms, and how Santa Barbara opened the door,” you should.
If you care about Santa Barbara County’s blessed topography with its rolling hills, beautiful vineyards, quiet beaches, and unique tranquility that is home for thousands as well as a tourist destination, you must.
According to this well-researched article by Los Angeles Times staff writer Joe Mozingo, Santa Barbara County has become “the unlikely capitol of California’s legal pot market.” The draw of big money for growers, land owners, investors, and the county created the perfect moneymaking storm following the passing of Proposition 64 that legalized recreational marijuana in November 2016. But the county’s expectation of lucrative tax returns fizzled when the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, contrary to other counties, agreed to tax cannabis on revenue rather than tax the licensed square footage cultivated. Since there aren’t enough licensed dispensaries to buy the product only a fraction of what consultants predicted as income to Santa Barbara County has come to fruition.
Supervisors Das Williams and Steve Lavagnino developed close ties and socialized with hired advocates/lobbyists/consultants for the marijuana industry. They pushed for and won nearly every important measure the cultivators asked for. “In 2017 and 2018, members of Carp Growers gave of total of $16,500 to Williams’ campaign committee, and they donated $12,000 to Lavagnino in the month leading to the final vote on the cannabis ordinance last year.” A third Santa Barbara County supervisor, Gregg Hart, hired a marijuana lobbyist as his chief as staff.
“When Santa Barbara County supervisors decided to allow unlimited licenses, moneyed interests from all over the state saw an opportunity.” The loopholes in the licensing process created a rush of undocumented applications and ‘stacking’ of small licenses for up to 10,000 square feet. Stacking was a means of maneuvering around Proposition 64’s stipulation that large-scale grows couldn’t be licensed until 2023.
My argument is not with legalized cannabis in California. I personally am not a proponent of recreational use of cannabis and have concerns about the production and distribution of medical marijuana. But the voters have decided and now we are faced with the impact and consequences of this decision whether or not you are for or against. My concern is that the mismanagement of marijuana cultivation by Santa Barbara County has and will continue to negatively impact too many lives in the county.
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, and specifically Das Williams and Steve Lavagnino, with the urging of cannabis lobbyists, investors, and growers, have made decisions and pushed forward measures that will transform the beauty of this county’s lands for generations to come. Santa Barbara County is sett to host the largest legal marijuana grow on earth in the Santa Rita Hills with 147 acres of hooped greenhouses. Two miles away, a planting of 83 acres will soon become the second largest grow on the planet.
People who we voted into power have sold us out in their quest for financial and personal gain. They will never have to suffer the direct consequences of their actions…unless they choose to move next to or nearby a marijuana grow. Monstrous white hoops won’t surround their neighborhoods; the smell of skunk won’t poison their air; their property values won’t plummet; the lighting ruining our dark night skies won’t be seen by them; and armed guards won’t be patrolling near them. But our lives and our children’s lives will forever be changed … because of what they did to us.