Carpinteria nurseries adjacent to residential communities and public­ school facilities have converted from fragrant flower farms to pungent marijuana farming operations. | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Language imparts culture. The concept of “shame,” the cultural sense that morality is based on appearance, image, and reputation, rather than internal Christian concepts of sin embodied in man-made laws which creates a “guilt” based culture, is at play in the race for 1st District Supervisor in Santa Barbara County. Being thought of as sin verguenza, or “without shame,” is about as low as you can get in Latin American culture. To be shamed is about the worst thing that can happen in that cultural setting.

Laura Capps is a longtime family and personal friend. I know her well enough to be able to judge her character, which is exemplary and impeccable. She is running against the incumbent, Das Williams. The race has centered, in part, on the regulation, or lack thereof, of marijuana production in Santa Barbara County. Marijuana is lawful but is the subject of embryonic regulatory schemes to balance the interests of growers and producers against local residents of communities in the county.

The question is not whether to permit marijuana farming or to ban it. The question is how to regulate its farming operations, production, and taxation. The incumbent has come under substantial press-coverage fire for his leadership in the creation of a lax system of local regulation. Carpinteria nurseries adjacent to residential communities and public­ school facilities have converted from fragrant flower farms to pungent marijuana farming operations. No one minded having fragrant flower farms next door. The marijuana odor issues present a different landscape.

Similar concerns issued forth in my neighborhood in the “Noleta” foothills at a community meeting several months ago. Nearly 100 residents turned out to discuss the surrounding agricultural plots of land with our supervisor, Gregg Hart. The fear that we would become “like Carpinteria” in the odorous permeation sense was pervasive and profound.

A 2018 Public Health Study in Ontario, California, regarding marijuana production found the following: “In general, most substances responsible for odours in the outdoor air are not present at levels that can cause long-term health effects. However, exposure to unpleasant odours may affect an individual’s quality of life and sense of well-being. Exposure to odorous compounds can potentially trigger physical symptoms, depending on the type of substance responsible for the odour, the intensity of the odour, the frequency of the odour, the duration of the exposure, and the sensitivity of the individual detecting the odour.”

Many Carpinteria residents in adjoining residential and public-school areas are Latinos and/ or lower-income community residents. Questionable health risk and quality of life issues often exist in such neighborhoods. A new national focus on health-and-safety concerns related to the proximity of negative or risky impact parcel usages, or potentially toxic industrial waste facilities near limited-means neighborhoods, has grown in recent years. Environmentalism has become a civil rights issue.

Also, under California law, a seller has a duty to disclose to the buyer of residential property all known material facts affecting the value or desirability of property. A seller who breaches this duty is potentially liable for damages. Even an intermittent problem of offensive odiferous circumstances at a home sale would have to be disclosed to the buyer in a real estate transaction. Odors can, and have, diminished the value of a homeowner’s property.

In addition, the marijuana producers have been made to pay taxes based on sales, not on acreage of plant growth. Because possession and cultivation of marijuana remains a federal crime, financial institutions such as banks will not process the proceeds of such business transactions. Some sales of marijuana products are above the table. Others are not. A base for taxation becomes illusory. Other small business enterprises must pay their fair share of taxes. Marijuana producers seemingly do not. The tax burden shifts unfairly to non-cannabis producers and mom-and-pop economic players.

These are issues worthy of intensive scrutiny and comprehensive public policy making. That has not happened. They should have been priority concerns in local jurisdictions, and they have not been. It is time for that to change.

A new Political Action Committee has been formed to “attack” candidate Capps. Its onslaught has included her mother, the nine-term congressmember Lois Capps, along with long-term former members of the Board of Supervisors, Susan Rose and Janet Wolf, into their attack scopes. The PAC consists of persons who have worked with the incumbent supervisor on the loose-ends and threadbare regulatory scheme that now affects the local marijuana production industry. Is this a mere coincidence? Perhaps, if you just fell off the turnip truck.

And her “sin”? Laura Capps hasn’t voluntarily accepted the campaign fundraising limits she has proposed for future elections to curb the inordinate influence of special interests in local elections. The “committee” wants Das to fundraise by the old, “no holds barred,” let-the-special-interest-cash flow rules existing now and have Capps hamstring herself with her proposed ethical funding limitations, and she is a “hypocrite” for not doing so. What planet do these folks think local voters come from?

The clearer explanation is that the current supervisor and his cohorts are “sin verguenza.” They are attacking women who are pillars of the local community. Those facing ad hominem attacks are longtime Democratic elected public servants with exemplary public service records, impeccable reputations for veracity, and who are known for equanimity in all regards. But they support his opponent.

The incumbent has perennially touted himself as the “outsider” who has graciously offered himself up as the change agent to pre-existing stale, back-room politics. But he has now been in elective office for decades. And he is engaging in “below the belt,” low-grade, unjustifiable personal attacks in order to harvest another election. He has created, along with his cronies, the latest iteration of “smoke-filled-room” politics. The irony is palpable.

Das is “sin verguenza.”


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