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Local News

Santa Barbara County Adopts Permanent Ban on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Board of Supervisors, opting against an ordinance allowing up to seven storefronts, instead follows in the footsteps of many local cities, including Goleta

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted swiftly Tuesday afternoon to ban medical marijuana storefront dispensaries, in strong contrast to the City of Santa Barbara’s arduous process to approve an ordinance.

The Montecito and county planning commissions had approved guidelines for an ordinance — that would allow up to seven storefronts throughout the county — but the supervisors asked for a ban instead.

In the 4-1 vote, Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr opposed the ban and said the county isn’t in the habit of banning a land use that appears to be legal in the state.

In support of the ban, Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf noted that California’s U.S. attorneys have recently carried out a crackdown on marijuana operations and sent letters to 38 marijuana dispensaries warning them they are violating federal law. The three counties — Orange, Riverside and Inland Empire — asked the federal government for assistance eliminating commercial dispensaries, according to a news release.

The county’s permanent ban replaces a soon-to-expire temporary one and joins bans by many cities within the county, including Guadalupe, Solvang, Buellton, Goleta, Carpinteria and Lompoc, according to county documents.

Just one person spoke at Tuesday’s meeting against the ban. Dee Wingo, who wore a “I am not a criminal” T-shirt and uses medicinal marijuana for depression, said prohibiting collective storefronts would encourage more unregulated collective cultivation and “underground” patient-to-patient transactions.

The cities of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Ventura, and San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties have created ordinances to allow and regulate the storefront dispensaries.

Santa Barbara’s current, revised ordinance took a failed voter initiative to ban them and more than a year of public meetings to get passed. It includes stringent rules for the storefronts’ locations and operations so they adhere to state laws by being nonprofit and only serving qualified patients.

There are four permitted dispensaries in the city, including three that were permitted under the original ordinance.

There were four known dispensaries in the county as of January 2010, two of which are being investigated for zoning enforcement and one that closed because of a criminal investigation. The Green Room, a Summerland dispensary, is still open and operating.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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