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Santa Barbara County Supervisors to Consider Urgency Ordinance to Ban Growing Pot Under Prop. 64

While working on long-term response to 2016 voter approval of recreational marijuana, board views short-term steps as way to preserve local control

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors is considering its own rules to regulate the recreational marijuana industry after California voters passed Proposition 64 legalizing the use, possession, cultivation and sale of pot throughout the state.

The board voted 4-1 to direct county staff to return with an urgency ordinance that would ban growing recreational marijuana, and other marijuana activities, while the county develops a permanent ordinance to regulate or ban recreational/nonmedical marijuana.

Supervisors Peter Adam, Joan Hartmann, Steve Lavagnino and Janet Wolf voted in favor of the ordinance. Supervisor Das Williams voted against it.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board also decided to form a short-term ad hoc committee with Lavagnino and Williams to work on the permanent ordinance, with monthly reports to the full board. A registry to find out more about existing operators is under consideration, as well.

The Board of Supervisors voted to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in 2011. In January 2016, the board voted to prohibit medical marijuana cultivation, exempting the 100-square-foot amount for personal use allowed under state law and legal nonconforming enterprises in operation before that point.

There’s no list of those operators or official record of how much medical marijuana is grown and distributed in the county. Supervisors didn’t ask staff to make such a list so enforcement presumably would be tricky. The intent of the legal nonconforming exemption was to support existing growers who adhered to state law and local rules.

Tuesday’s focus was on regulating marijuana since Prop. 64’s passage last November. The law allows adults 21 and older to use, possess, buy and grow marijuana for nonmedical purposes, but also gives local government the choice to ban marijuana businesses.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday had a long discussion that sometimes strayed from the focus of new regulations for nonmedical marijuana. State regulations are expected to take effect around January, so the county will decide whether to have its own rules in place by then or not.

The only rules it could pass fast enough probably come in the form of an urgency ordinance banning everything except personal cultivation (six plants indoors), since a permanent ordinance requires environmental and Coastal Commission review.

Local governments are also allowed to regulate marijuana businesses through licensing or land use permitting, in addition to state regulations.

Public speakers who showed up or wrote comments in support of allowing marijuana cultivation and/or distribution included Carpinteria Valley flower growers who have started growing the cash crop, medical marijuana collective owners and their patients, and members of the Cannabis Business Council of Santa Barbara County who are planning their future.

“You probably flew in the face of who the public expected to be in this industry,” Lavagnino said after the public comment period. “They probably expected Jeff Spicoli to show up.”

The Santa Maria-based supervisor, whose Fifth District encompasses a large portion of the county’s remote backcountry, also observed that Williams’ First District “has all the professional grows and I have all the illegal grows.”

Retail medical marijuana sales have been more discreet since the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2012 conducted a series of targeted raids and asset forfeiture threats against landlords, but there are many operations growing and distributing pot in the county. There are collectives and delivery services all over, and the City of Santa Barbara has given permits to two medical marijuana dispensaries.

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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