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Santa Barbara County Planning Commission to recommend more rigorous permit for all cannabis cultivation
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Santa Barbara County Planning Commission to recommend more rigorous permit for all cannabis cultivation

After wrestling with reports and public opinion through hours of hearings, the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission drafted a resolution addressing some of the issues surrounding the cannabis industry that will be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors to consider enacting as ordinance amendments.

The commission continued other issues indefinitely after running out of time at the end of the nearly all-day hearing Wednesday.

“If this is the best we can do in the time we have and we’re going to blow it up if we keep futzing with it, I will support it,” said 3rd District Commissioner John Parke. He previously expressed concern that recommending cannabis odors be controlled at the property line might make it hard to get the permit portion of the recommendation enacted by the board.

In a unanimous vote, the commission agreed to recommend supervisors require a conditional use permit for all cultivation and onsite processing operations in both AG-1 and AG-2 zones, not only inland but also in the Coastal Zone.

If approved by the board, that would mean cannabis cultivation and onsite processing projects could not be approved by the less rigorous land use permit procedure.

While supervisors can enact the ordinance in the inland area, the California Coastal Commission will have to approve the ordinance before it can take effect in the Coastal Zone and, as it has in the past, may require changes to its provisions.

The resolution also asks the board to amend the ordinances so that the odor control plan required as a condition of approval will “ensure the project will not be detrimental to the comfort, convenience, general welfare, health and safety of the neighborhood.”

If enacted as an amendment, that could mean outdoor cultivation might not be allowed in some areas or would have to take place in a sealed greenhouse with odor control, depending upon the proposed location of the project, environmental conditions and the nature of the neighborhood.

Commissioners considered recommending that cannabis odor be controlled at the property line.

“If you can smell as grow anywhere outside the [project] boundary, that’s a violation,” said Commissioner Michael Cooney, who represents the 1st District that includes Carpinteria, an area that has generated a flood of complaints over odor.

Planning Director Lisa Plowman pointed out making that a requirement would represent a significant change to the entire program.

“It would not allow outdoor growing and all greenhouses wold have to be completely sealed,” she noted, adding that processing is the source of the majority of cannabis odor.

Requiring processing to be done within a structure fitted with an odor-control system would be a step up in odor control but wouldn’t fundamentally change the process.

“This almost creates a bar that’s impossible for the cannabis industry to meet,” Parke said of stopping odor at the propery line. “It creates an impossible standard. The North County ag people are a little afraid of this one in cannabis because they might be next.”

He said such odor control might eventually be extended to stinky broccoli and garlic crops.

“Right now, it looks like the best tool in our toolbox is the [conditional use permit],” said 4th District Commissioner Larry Ferini.

Two other issues the commission planned to address — whether processing within structures should use carbon filtration or best available control technology and whether permits should have a fixed term and, if so, now long — were continued indefinitely.

In some of the previous hearings on the cannabis ordinances, the commission indicated the Board of Supervisors should consider funding a study of terpenes — the chemicals that produce the distinctive “skunky” cannabis smell — and their potential impacts on wine grapes and the resulting wine.

Commissioners also wanted to discuss objective methods of measuring odor and determining the source of the odor, which they said might be difficult.

They also expressed concerns over the “legal nonconforming existing use” designation initially used to allow medical marijuana operations to continue while the county developed regulations for the then-new adult use law.

Complete Series - Green Rush in the 805?: Cannabis on the Central Coast - Looking at land use, money, science, law enforcement and education

"Green Rush in the 805?" explores five areas that will be affected by the legalization of cannabis: land use, money, science, law enforcement and education. Our aim is to equip readers with the knowledge needed to contextualize decisions made by governing bodies, and grasp the challenges that will be faced by growers, law enforcement officials and schools.

For the past 15 years a local agriculture company has been spraying my avocados for persea mites and avocado thrips with Entrust, a certified organic product. Persea mites cause defoliation and low yields. Avocado thrips cause scars that cut wholesale price by half. But this year they won’t spray Entrust or any conventional pesticides for that matter because of fear of lawsuits from cannabis growers. They are one of only three licensed, insured appliers that serve Carpinteria. The second also will no longer spray in Carpinteria for the same reason.

A new recreational cannabis dispensary opened its doors in Lompoc on Friday, becoming the second such business in both the city and all of Santa Barbara County. The Ocean Hye Club, at 1017 E. Ocean Ave., celebrated its first day of operation on Friday morning with plans on hosting a much larger grand opening event on Saturday. Although the shop was not yet fully decorated or stocked, several customers were on hand to check out the new business in its first hour of operation.

The Lompoc Valley Cannabis Association is set to host its first “CannaBrew,” a cannabis industry social mixer. The event aims to provide a networking platform for established and up-and-coming cannabis companies, industry professionals, ancillary service providers and supporters from Lompoc and Santa Barbara County with influence across the Central Coast. It is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, at Lompoc’s Hangar 7, 107 W. Ocean Ave.

Cannabis issues will take up most of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday in Santa Maria, where changes to the land use ordinance and the licensing ordinance will be considered. Supervisors are scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. in the Board Hearing Room of the Joseph Centeno Betteravia Government Administration Building at 511 E. Lakeside Parkway.

Deliberations on potential amendments to cannabis business licensing ordinances, which were cut short last week by a loss of electrical power, are scheduled for the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. Supervisors also plan to hear a report on Community Choice Energy and consider special tax levies for two facilities districts — one for the Orcutt Community Plan and the other for Providence Landing — when they meet at 9 a.m. in Santa Barbara.

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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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