On Dec. 7, the state of California released its “final proposed” regulations to guide aspects of the budding marijuana industry such as issuing licenses to grow, test, distribute, manufacture and sell cannabis.
The regulations, for the first time since the drug was legalized by voters in November 2016, gave Santa Barbara County a road map that allows supervisors to make decisions and draft ordinances governing the industry in unincorporated areas of the county in accordance with state laws.
“For the first time, we have fully developed regulations at the state level for you to work with,” said Mark Lovelace, a former two-term Humboldt County supervisor who now works for the HdL Companies consulting firm.
Santa Barbara County is considering modeling its license program on the state system, which consists of 18 license types as well as a designation for either adult or medicinal use, and a “three-dimensional” system seems to be favored by county staff and a county ad hoc cannabis subcommittee.
Under that system, operating a cannabis business in the county would require the state license plus a county land-use permit and a county business license.
The land-use permit would regulate where cannabis operations could take place and how they would be conducted, and the business license would regulate who could conduct cannabis operations and what specific operations they would be allowed to conduct.
Supervisors have a number of factors to consider in developing licensing options, including whether to limit personal cultivation to indoors, whether to require a land-use permit for personal cultivation and whether operating without a state and county license and county land-use permit should be a misdemeanor.
They will also be addressing a standard for an excessive concentration of licenses, whether cannabis business licenses should be limited by total number or by type, where delivery should be allowed, and whether consumption should be allowed at retail or microbusiness locations.
Getting in the zones
Where various types of operations will be allowed is still up in the air as well, although some general guidelines are being considered.
In agricultural zones, the county might allow all types of cultivation, volatile and nonvolatile extraction, distribution, and microbusinesses with retail delivery only.
In commercial zones, operations could be limited to indoor cultivation, nonvolatile extraction, lab testing, retail sales, distribution and microbusinesses.
Industrial zones might provide indoor cultivation, volatile and nonvolatile extraction, testing, distribution, microbusinesses and retail sales. Mixed-use zones could only take retail sales and nonvolatile extraction processes.
Who could get licenses
While it’s uncertain who will be granted state and county licenses, we do know who won’t be allowed to obtain them.
Those specifically prohibited from holding licenses are state employees and elected officials involved in regulating the industry, and law enforcement officers.
Misdemeanor convictions won’t necessarily prevent someone from obtaining a state cannabis license, but serious and violent felony convictions are grounds for denial, as well as those involving fraud, embezzlement, using minors in drug trafficking, providing drugs to a minor and drug trafficking with enhancements.
However, mitigating factors might include compliance with the terms of the sentence and release, a certificate of rehabilitation, evidence of a dismissal, the nature and severity of the crime, the amount of time since the crime was committed, the person’s criminal record and whether the conviction involved a cannabis felony that would not be a felony on the date of the license application.
Factoring in the registry
It’s likely the county’s cannabis registry, to some extent or another, will factor into determining who will be granted permits and licenses.
County officials have indicated those who signed the online registry between April 17 and June 30, 2017, may get priority in the application review process.
“I think we should support locals before we invite a lot of people from outside,” said Joan Hartmann, 3rd District supervisor and board chairwoman for the past year. “That’s why the registry is important.”
The registry was designed to give the county information about who previously and currently grew cannabis, how much and where, and who might be growing it in the future to help in drafting cannabis regulations, an EIR and a fiscal analysis.
Those who were or planned to be involved in cannabis manufacturing — turning the raw material into a range of products from oils and lotions to mints and the proverbial brownies — could also sign up.
How many growing how much
During the time the registry was open for sign-ups, the 249 existing growers who registered reported cultivating 396 acres. County officials believe more people were operating illegal grows and did not register.
Of those who registered, about 102 indicated their grows were primarily outdoors, while about 141 were using mixed light and about seven were growing entirely indoors.
They reported employing 867 full-time workers, which swelled to 1,669 during harvest time, and almost 60 percent of the growers reported more than one harvest a year. About 14 growers reported harvesting more than five crops a year.
A total of 106 growers said they cultivated 99 or fewer plants, 73 claimed more than 5,000 plants and about 22 reported 500 to 1,000 plants.
Almost half of the growers said their plants were irrigated using city water, about 34 percent obtained water from private wells and nearly equal numbers of the remainder said they irrigated using district water, shared well water or some “other” source.
A total of 154 growers identified additional sites for expanding their operations, increasing the total cultivated area by 730 acres to a total of 1,126. Another 229 growers had not identified expansion sites and 123 didn’t know if they would expand.