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Cannabis operations will range from cultivation to retail sales

Cannabis operations will range from cultivation to retail sales

From the Lee President's Award - Green Rush in the 805?: Cannabis on the Central Coast - Looking at land use, money, science, law enforcement and education series

In addition to marijuana grows, Santa Barbara County residents can expect to see testing labs, manufacturing, distribution and delivery businesses, and retail store fronts sprout over the coming years, but the operations will be limited by the licensing process that's being developed by the Board of Supervisors.

Of 12 state licensing categories, the county is focusing first on grower licenses, which include up to four subcategories based on the size of a grow, whether it’s indoors, outdoors or uses a mixed source of light.

Licenses also will carry an “M” designation for medical marijuana, or an “A” designation for adult-use marijuana.

Grower licenses are broken down into categories ranging from Type 1 to Type 4. They include the “specialty” grower Type 1 license, with three subcategories for grows up to 5,000 square feet and one “cottage” license limited to 2,500 square feet; Type 2 licenses include small-size grows up to 10,000 square feet; and Type 3 licenses cover medium-size plantation-grows up to 1 acre outdoors and 22,000 square feet indoors or with mixed light.

A Type 4 license for nurseries will also allow operators to deliver live plants.

Those who intend to operate large plantation-like grows will have to wait until 2023 to obtain licenses.

The Department of Food and Agriculture will require unique identification numbers to be attached to the base of each plant at a cultivation site to allow the agency to track plants as they move through the process from grower to consumer.

Those in manufacturing

Manufacturers will be divided into two types, those that use nonvolatile solvents or no solvents to create their products, and those that us volatile solvents, which can release flammable gas or vapors, in the production process.

State regulations allow cannabis business operators to hold more than one type of license — referred to as vertical integration — with some limits.

No one may hold a cultivation, manufacturing, retailer or distributor license along with a testing lab license, which must be completely independent.

Those licensed as medical manufacturers can only sell to a medical retailer which requires a permitted location.

Testing labs are an indispensible part of the cannabis system, because all cannabis from buds, seeds and even stems to foods, lotions and medical products must be tested for levels of THC — tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — and CBD — cannabidiol, the ingredient with medical applications that doesn’t produce a “high.”

Testing labs will also check for any chemical contaminants and microbiological impurities and make sure the labels accurately reflect the contents of the products.

In order to obtain a license, a lab must be certified by the International Standards Organization.

As far as distribution, licensed distributors serve as the “middle man” between each type of business. Distributors will get the raw cannabis and refined products to the testing labs, then move the product on to the next step — raw cannabis to a manufacturer or retailer, manufactured products to a retailer.

Distributors also will be responsible for collecting the taxes on cannabis and forwarding them to the state. For a complete listing of licensing types and information go to

County support

County supervisors are generally supporting all types of cannabis operations as they move through the regulation process, although 1st District Supervisor Das Williams has not favored allowing delivery with retail operations.

“I really believe that for safety reasons we should be having storefront retail and not having delivery services,” Williams said. “I’ve asked a lot of folks in the industry and a lot of law enforcement (people) about it, and what I get time and time again is these delivery services are a lot more vulnerable to being robbed and a lot more difficult to regulate than a storefront dispensary.

“A storefront dispensary, you can require them to have cameras, you can require them to have security guards, you can even require … that possibly … their records are open to law enforcement to use as part of a discretionary permit requirement. We can’t effectively do that on delivery services. All they are is an app.”

All but 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf have supported cultivation in small agriculture zones, although most want a 7-acre minimum parcel size, and most support cultivation in large ag zones with either 7-acre or 40-acre minimum parcels.

Wolf has not supported any operations in small commercial zoning and mixed-use, which includes residential uses, because supervisors don’t support cannabis operations in any residential area.

All have supported manufacturing in manufacturing zones and some commercial zones.

One type of operation the Board of Supervisors has not looked favorably upon is microbusiness, which combines multiple functions — cultivates less than 10,000 square feet of plants and serves as its own distributor, manufacturer and retailer.

Microbusinesses might be operated by an individual or a small team as a “fully integrated enterprise,” according to county staff.

“I’m just opposed to the idea because I think these guys are the hobby guys,” said 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam. “Maybe they do some things well and other things not so well, and I think those are the ones that are going to be the problems.”



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County Reporter/Associate Editor

Lee Central Coast Newspapers associate editor Mike Hodgson covers Santa Barbara County government and events and issues in Santa Ynez Valley. Follow him on Twitter @MHodgsonSYVNews.

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The following is taken from the Santa Maria Police Department's calls-for-service log and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office daily arrest log. Those appearing as "arrested" are only suspected of the crime indicated but are presumed innocent.

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