Medical-marijuana dispensaries remained the center of Santa Barbara’s attention this week as more than 100 people gathered for a magnified look at the local landscape and the implications of their locations.

“We don’t have an issue with dispensaries, we have an issue with the dispensaries model, the profit-making model, the storefront model,” said Bob Bryant, one of the panelists at the Fighting Back Town Hall meeting Thursday at Victoria Hall.

Bryant, owner of Bryant & Sons Ltd. jewelers, founded the Daniel Bryant Youth & Family Treatment Center after his son, Danny, died of a drug overdose in 1995.

According to a handout offered at the meeting, 23 medical marijuana dispensaries are currently operating in Santa Barbara, eight of which are described as illegal — meaning they do not have proper permits or their status is unknown to the city. Seven are as close as 500 feet, or about a block and a half, from several schools, parks and youth group facilities.

“Proximity breeds results,” said Sharon Byrne, a neighborhood activist, concerned parent and featured speaker for the evening hosted by Unity Shoppe. “It’s a Wild West out there!”

Although representatives from schools, addiction treatment centers and neighborhood groups spent time presenting facts and addressing tribulations surrounding the dispensaries, it was evident the evening was laden with concern for Santa Barbara’s youth.

Peter Afflerbach, a counselor at the Daniel Bryant center, said “kids laugh at our inconsistency every day.” If parents revert to martinis or puffing pot to “relax,” their children may learn the same, he said.

The furrowed crowd murmured in agreement.

Dominating the discussion was the subject of untested accountability, such as whether a city can be held liable for allowing dispensaries in the first place since they are not legal under federal law.

Bryant Center counselor Peter Afflerbach makes a point, with Brian Sarvis and Bob Bryant to the right.

Bryant Center counselor Peter Afflerbach makes a point, with Brian Sarvis and Bob Bryant to the right. (Matthew Fisher / Noozhawk photo)

“There is nothing in state law books that say ‘dispensaries,’” said Byrne. “It’s up to interpretation.”

What is clear: Many Santa Barbarans are wondering when the closure of the illegal operations will happen and when a firm cap on the application process will be had.

Alternative options such as “1,000 feet from anything” — churches, schools, parks, day-care centers — and the “Zen-Maoist” approach — gather, grow, consume together — also were discussed. As one citizen put it eloquently at the meeting, “It boils down to the political will of the community. Has this community decided they do want them?”

Unity Shoppe was joined for the evening by its three partners, the Santa Barbara School District, the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and Santa Barbara’s Fighting Back program.

Noozhawk intern Rachel Urbach can be reached at