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Cap on Recreational Marijuana Dispensaries Discussed at Santa Barbara County Supervisors Meeting

Santa Barbara County supervisors talked about capping retail marijuana shops and limiting grow operations Tuesday, as the board got an update from the ad hoc committee that has been crafting proposed regulations for non-medical marijuana. 

Earlier this year, the county Board of Supervisors adopted an urgency ordinance to ban the cultivation, distribution, transportation, storage, manufacturing and processing of recreational marijuana.

The temporary rules also ban the selling of marijuana and marijuana products for recreational use and the growth of industrial hemp. They were put in place to allow county staff time to develop permanent rules for marijuana operations in the county.

On Tuesday, the supervisors and public got an update from the ad hoc committee, which has been meeting since March to discuss rules for cannabis operations.

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino and First District Supervisor Das Williams were appointed to the committee, and ​Lavagnino said Tuesday that he believed the body had served its purpose.

"We have done what we can with the ad hoc," Lavagnino said, noting he also felt the public has had ample opportunity to be part of the process, which is still ongoing.

The county is developing an environmental impact report for the proposed ordinance, and the document is expected to be released for public review by the first week of October.

Californian voters passed Proposition 64 in November legalizing marijuana for recreational use, and the state is expected to begin issuing licenses to establish businesses such as cannabis clubs and pot shops by a Jan. 1, 2018 deadline.

"We didn't have seven years, five years, three years to burn on this," Lavagnino said. "If we didn't act now, we'd continue to have what we have. We have brought this as far as it can go."

He also said it was appropriate for the supervisors, who make the county's policies and land-use decisions, to take the lead on deciding the "who, what, when, and where or if (recreational marijuana activity) does happen."

The county's focus in developing cannabis regulations has been on land-use permitting (particularly for cultivation), business licensing and fees. 

Williams said he favored banning all marijuana delivery services countywide but allowing dispensary storefronts if retail cannabis sales are permitted in the future.

He believes delivery services are much more vulnerable to crime than storefronts.

"All they are is an app in the county," Williams said. "We can't effectively (regulate) a delivery service."

Williams and other board members also voiced support for capping the number of retail business licenses allowed if the county permits them at all.

Williams didn't propose a specific number but he didn't think there was a reason for a large number of storefront dispensaries in the county.

The supervisors all seemed to agree they don't want a proliferation of marijuana dispensaries and cannabis shops in the county like in Colorado, where recreational marijuana is now legal and the industry has exploded.

Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf said there are enough dispensaries available in the county for individuals to legally obtain medical marijuana, so she wasn't concerned with keeping individuals from getting their medicine, by instituting a cap.

"I am worried about having a glut … turning our communities into something we don't want them to be," Wolf said. "I can see having one in the South County and one in the North County."

The supervisors also seemed to agree that they didn't want any recreational marijuana activities, such as outdoor grows, in residential areas, with Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam advocating for activities to only be permitted on parcels 40 acres or larger.

"I know that's not what the guys in Carpinteria want to hear," Adam said.

He said what was most important to him was that there be no on-site consumption of marijuana at any of the retail dispensaries. Adam wants to see individuals buy their product and take it home.

Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann said she couldn't back Adam's proposal to move cannabis operations to 40-acre parcels because doing so would impact much of the Santa Ynez Valley, where people live on parcels of that size and larger.

The issue will come back to the Board of Supervisors in November, and staff will present a report on the possible economic impacts of cannabis operations in the county. 

Most discussions are focusing on recreational marijuana, but the county also has an ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation, with some exceptions, in unincorporated areas.

State law does allow personal cultivation of six plants for medical marijuana. 

Noozhawk contributing writer April Charlton can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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