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Permit Applications for Santa Barbara County Cannabis Operations Coming in Slowly

County expects more applications, including from the large number of existing operators who have temporary state licenses

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More than 45 people involved in the cannabis industry gathered for a meeting hosted by Santa Barbara County Monday with updates on permits and enforcement for illegal operations.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Despite the fact that Santa Barbara County has a lot of operators with temporary state licenses for marijuana operations, fewer than half of those operators have applied for local permits so far, Assistant County Executive Officer Dennis Bozanich said. 

The Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Department held an informational meeting focusing on cannabis-related business permitting and licensing on Monday and talked about enforcement, permits and other industry issues.

County officials told the 45-or-so cannabis industry people at the meeting that they are ramping up enforcement efforts on pot-based companies operating outside the law. The Sheriff's Department raided two illegal cultivation sites in Tepusquet Canyon last week, east of Santa Maria. 

“We are out and talking to folks,” Bozanich said. “There is more planned, so I’d like to acknowledge the residents and people from the industry that have come forward with suggestions about where we might want to look for conducting enforcement activities.”

He said county staff is working closely with the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney's Office, Planning and Development, and the county department of agriculture.

“For those of you in the community…and concerned — we are working and you will see more results coming from our enforcement activities in the days, weeks and months ahead,” Bozanich said.

Santa Barbara County established its own regulations for medical and non-medical cannabis operations including cultivation and sales, and has been accepting permit applications for three months.  

Bozanich questioned attendees during the Monday meeting why a small percentage of people operating on temporary California permits have applied for county licenses and permits.

“I’m a little disappointed that after all the pressure you all put on us to develop a good ordinance, only 40 percent have applied for a permit,” Bozanich said.

Planning and Development supervisor Jackie Campbell said as of Monday, the county has received 48 applications, including 36 requests for planner consultation, 10 land-use permit applications and one development plan request and conditional use permit in the Tepusquet Canyon area.

One permit had been approved, according to Campbell.

“Just last week, we approved our first land-use permit for a small nursery facility in the Goleta area, so we just entered the first appeal process,” Campbell said.

According to Campbell, another permit could be issued next week.

Campbell also mentioned complaints filed that are related to the smell of marijuana, and noted that enforcement has been difficult in terms of tracking down the source. 

“In Carpinteria, we get complaints about odor, and it’s hard for anyone to pinpoint where that odor is coming from,” Campbell said. “It’s hard for us to respond.”

There is a specific page for filing complaints through the county’s website dedicated to marijuana policy.

Cannabis operations are not yet required to have odor abatement plans, Campbell said, because the California Coastal Commission has not reviewed the ordinance in the Coastal Zone.

“People can voluntarily implement odor abatement systems — and that is much appreciated,” she said.

The Board of Supervisors has adopted a series of ordinances to allow commercial cannabis operations in unincorporated areas of the county, with eight permit types.

The county’s ordinance is in effect for the inland area of the county, while the ordinance for the Coastal Zone will not be in effect until the California Coastal Commission certifies it.

Campbell is expecting more permit applications. 

“For those properties that are in the Coastal Zone, when we are able to accept coastal development permits, we expect a flood of applications,” Campbell said. “We know the Carpinteria growers are organized. We expect about 34 greenhouses are producing in that area.” 

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland 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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