Credit: Courtesy

Though SBIFF’s development director Benjamin Goedert’s career in film goes back almost a decade, Santa Barbara Weed Country is his debut film. A measured look at the conflicts growing from Santa Barbara County’s cannabis industry, the 10-minute documentary is a brief look at the potential and problems that legal marijuana presents. It’s part of the short docs being shown as part of Closing Night on April 9 at the seaside drive-in. 

Goedert tells us a little more about the film below. 

 What made you decide to jump into the controversial heap that is cannabis in Santa Barbara County?

I was introduced to this story a few years ago by my relatives living in the Santa Ynez Valley. They knew, even back then, that these issues would not be resolved peacefully. It became clear very quickly that this was going to become a much bigger issue. The most shocking part was how few people were aware of the situation entirely. 

That’s when we decided to start shooting and right away met interesting characters on both sides. So much of the valley is whole-heartedly divided by their stance on cannabis, which made for great interviews. It recently has become a hot topic but I still believe a majority of people, even locally, are unaware of the details. The intention of this project was to let an audience hear directly from some of those that are most involved.

You manage to find people who speak eloquently rather than angrily about the issues. Was that hard to do?

 It was very important to us that all perspectives be represented. Along the way we met with many people who were entirely enthusiastic about the issues, but the characters we chose were the most informed and had the most insightful things to say. Those you see in the film are brilliant in their own way, which we felt better legitimized the points they had to make. 

I was fortunate to have the help of valley residents that were dedicated to all of the breaking developments. They introduced me to some of the most knowledgeable people on the topic and we were lucky that they were interested in participating in the film. 

It was a challenge to get some characters to meet with us due to pending legal cases.. There are many other key players out there that I would like to include.

What do you foresee for the future of cannabis in Santa Barbara County?

I can’t think of anything more California than weed and wine. Someday soon we will be using Bitcoin to purchase Santa Weeda Hills Pinot of the cannabis terroir.

 I hope the vintners and cannabis farms resolve their issues and find ways to co-exists but that seems unlikely if they are sharing property lines. I believe the two industries have more in common than they realize and will eventually find a compromise. 

There is a lot of hype for new grows to set up shop, but I doubt that all will make it in business or even through the application process. The big operations with the financial backing seem to be here to stay and that conflict will continue to rise. Many of the locals are urging the county to set stricter limits on the proximity of grows to residential areas, and reduce the size of operations. We’ll see.

It seems like this is the start of a longer story. Do you plan to expand this into a bigger film? 

The story continues to evolve and there are so many more specifics left to dive into. I have hours of footage and interviews involving the permitting process, scarcity of resources, legal battles, etc. 

We’re continuing to work on this project as either a greater feature length film or an episodic series. I would love to dedicate more time to each perspective to best show how passionately each side feels about the changing landscape of this new agriculture in Santa Barbara County.

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