The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors disagreed, in whole or in part, to all but two of the 12 findings in a highly critical grand jury report on cannabis regulation and said only one of the report’s 19 recommendations would be implemented
Although 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann took issue with the reply to Finding 11, she agreed with the overall response to the report as recommended by staff and joined in the unanimous vote approving it.
Finding 11 essentially said odor has not been controlled at cannabis cultivation boundaries, leading to a significant public outcry about odor, quality of life and health.
The board partially disagreed with that.
While acknowledging odor control has been a challenge in regulating cannabis, the board’s response said permitting and business licensing processes come with stringent requirements for odor control.
It also said business licenses mandate annual reviews, and a significant portion of those will consider odor control compliance.
“There are, to my knowledge, no odor control requirements on AG-2 properties,” Hartmann asserted. “[The response] implies there are odor control requirements across the board.”
Planning and Development Department Director Lisa Plowman agreed odor control is not required on properties zoned Agriculture 2 and said her staff will work with the County Executive Office to clarify odor control requirements in the response.
The board said it will not implement the recommendation that unpermitted cannabis cultivation be suspended until operators prove odor is controlled at the property line because that action is not warranted.
“I still believe technology will eventually improve this situation,” 1st District Supervisor Das Williams said.
Findings 6 and 7, which both criticized using affidavits to certify legal nonconforming use status without requiring proof, were the only two the board agreed with.
But the response said the accompanying recommendations — suspending unpermitted legal nonconforming operations pending proof of prior cultivation — were unreasonable and would not be implemented.
The board partially disagreed with Finding 9 that the county treasurer/tax collector “was not included in the creation of the tax portions of the cannabis ordinance,” noting the treasurer concurred with two board letters on cannabis taxes.
But it said the treasurer would be involved in creating any future tax-related ordinances.
Of eight people who spoke during public comment, three with industry connections supported supervisors for “choosing facts over emotion,” saying the grand jury report didn’t reflect the process and was written from the viewpoint that cannabis should not be legal.
The rest supported the grand jury’s “exhaustive investigation” and “thoughtful recommendations” and criticized the board using some of the report’s assertions, including that the board granted unfettered access to cannabis lobbyists, developed ordinances outside public scrutiny, allowed the industry to operate unchecked, failed to control odor and permitted an excessive number of cannabis operations.
Responding to the comments, 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said representatives of the cannabis industry had no more access than anyone else.
“Everybody’s got access,” Lavagnino said. “Anybody can come and see me.”
Williams pointed to the enforcement actions taken by the county against illegal operators: “The numbers [Assistant County Executive Officer Barney] Melekian has quoted show we have shut down a lot more cannabis operations than we’ve permitted.”
Hartmann noted the board has continuously made adjustments to the ordinance to deal with unanticipated issues that cropped up.
“I don’t think there was anything done that was shady in the ad hoc committee or in dealing with the cannabis industry,” she said.
Board Chairman and 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart said he was disappointed the grand jury report stopped at a point in the past and “didn’t describe the significant amendments we’ve made to the ordinance” in response to public concerns.
Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam’s only comment was brief: “I don’t feel like I have anything to explain. I voted against most of this stuff.”