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Cannabis Registry Applicants Report Plans for More Than 1,000 Acres of Grows

Work groups are spending months developing potential regulations for cultivating and selling marijuana in Santa Barbara County, while the county Board of Supervisors is eager to weigh in.

Deputy County Executive Officer Dennis Bozanich and other county staff gave the supervisors a status report this week that included information from the hundreds of cannabis cultivators who applied for the county’s registry.

The information hasn’t been verified, Bozanich noted, but from 534 registry applications, there are a reported 216 cannabis cultivators currently and 506 future cultivators, for a total of 396 current acres and 1,126 future acres of land.

The registry, which closed June 30, is meant to gather background information about marijuana grows for the county’s ordinance process, including environmental review and an economic impact analysis.

Voluntary registrants “may receive priority review” when they apply to grow marijuana or start other cannabis operations in unincorporated areas, according to the county.

The Board of Supervisors ad hoc committee developing a permanent ordinance to regulate medical and recreational cannabis includes First District Supervisor Das Williams, Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, and staff from the County Executive Office, the Agricultural Commissioner, Planning & Development, Public Health, the Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office.

The county in April passed a temporary ban on growing and selling marijuana while it develops its own local regulations. 

Some of the cannabis regulations being considered include a tax measure for cannabis operations (perhaps on the June 2018 ballot), business licenses, where to allow commercial cannabis businesses and growing, and whether edible cannabis products should be available through retail licenses.

County staff expect to publish a draft environmental impact report on cannabis operations in September, and start hearings at both the Montecito Planning Commission and county Planning Commission. A recommendation would go to the Board of Supervisors around February.

Sheriff’s Lt. Brian Olmstead said land use and criminal enforcement is “kind of weak right now” since laws keep changing regarding marijuana.

Whether the Board of Supervisors decides to ban certain cannabis operations or allow them with licensing, it will make it clearer for enforcement efforts, he said.

Dr. Charity Dean, the health officer for Santa Barbara County, said the Public Health Department is gathering data and working with the County Education Office on fact-based messaging about possible health impacts of cannabis use.

The county issued a notice of preparation for its environmental impact report Wednesday and will hold two public meetings to solicit comment on the scope of environmental review for its cannabis land use ordinance and licensing program. 

The public comment period ends at 5 p.m. Aug. 11, and comments can be emailed to [email protected] or sent to Jessica Metzger, program manager, at 123 E. Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101. 

The two meetings are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. July 26 in the Board Hearing Room, 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara, and 5:30 p.m. July 27 at the Betteravia Government Center, 511 East Lakeside Parkway in Santa Maria. 

Noozhawk managing editor 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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