The mic-drop moment at a hearing about cannabis regulation on Monday night at Goleta City Council Chambers came when well-known community member George Relles declared, “It’s clear to me something goes forward.”
By that, Relles meant the City of Goleta would embrace regulating recreational cannabis sales rather than banning them outright. “I’m not against the city making extra money on this,” he said, adding that the industry should be tightly regulated.
His comment came after a number of frustrated neighbors and cannabis professionals spoke about the expanding industry. The hearing was organized by city staff, and run by Deputy City Attorney Winnie Cai, simply to gather public input. The city councilmembers were not on the dais.
Goleta is, of course, not alone. After California voters passed a bill to legalize recreational marijuana sales last November, cities and counties have been grappling with how to regulate cannabis plants like wine grapes.
In January 2018, the state will launch its permitting process. To get a state license, though, operators — including cultivators, processors, extractors, merchants, and so on — must first obtain local authorization. These jurisdictions, therefore, are scrambling to establish local ordinances to determine how many of these businesses to allow and where to allow them.
On Monday, several Goletans lamented about recent problems already developing in their residential neighborhoods. Mike Miller said his next-door neighbor built a greenhouse to grow marijuana on his property. The homeowner, he said, rents out the house to his employees to apparently run the business, increasing traffic flow on his street. Fans are on 24/7, he said. “How do we ensure this is a legitimate business?” he asked.
The short answer is that it’s not legitimate, at least not under current Goleta laws. In 2009, the City of Goleta banned all new medical marijuana operations. Two existing businesses were grandfathered in.
But, as one cannabis cultivator said at the meeting, it’s common knowledge that many more than two marijuana-related operations exist in Goleta. He estimated that anywhere from 50 to 100 businesses exist in the Goleta area, including growers in warehouses or small-scale dealers in Isla Vista.
“We don’t have any complaints,” said Brian Adams, who said he has been growing cannabis in Goleta since 2009. “We don’t have any neighborhood issues.” He also emphasized there would be restrictions — such as on cultivation in residential neighborhoods. “It doesn’t fit,” he said.
According to the county’s self-reported cannabis registry, there are 38 operators on the South Coast, excluding Carpinteria, where nearly half of all of the county's cannabis-growing acres are found.