Cannabis and Politics About to Ignite in Santa Barbara County

Supervisors, Operators, and Critics Work in the Lull Before the Storm

With 45 years in law enforcement, Barney Melekian appreciates the irony of becoming the county’s new point person on cannabis. In his quiet and understated way, Melekian made it clear he’ll be changing how some operations are scrutinized. | Credit: Paul Wellman

This past week, a new cannabis civility seemed to enter public discussions. Could it be a trend? It doesn’t seem likely.

The county’s Planning Commission held two marathon sessions trying to solve some of the newly legalized industry’s rougher edges: pesticide drift endangering cannabis crops, terpene drift endangering wineries, and, most of all, odor drift enraging neighbors. The sessions were long ​— ​one ran more than seven hours ​— ​but all were startlingly constructive. For the first time, opposing combatants seemed more intent on solving problems than affixing blame. 

In dramatic contrast to the volcanic shout-fest that occurred last year, this Tuesday’s cannabis confab at the county supervisors meeting was devoid of political theatrics. Last year, Sheriff’s deputies had to escort an angry prospective vintner ​— ​a well-heeled refugee from the oil and gas fields of Louisiana named Bubba ​— ​out of the county building after he called one of the county’s cannabis leaders “an asshole.” 

The supervisors’ cannabis discussion this Tuesday was calm and collaborative. But inevitably it was only the calm before the storm. 

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