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Supervisors Give Green Light To Cannabis Land-Use Ordinance Amendments, Ballot Tax Measure Language

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday reaffirmed their support of new rules regulating the cultivation and sale of marijuana and cannabis-related products, despite pleas to stave off the decision that has been more than a year in the making.

The Board of Supervisors previously voted to adopt an ordinance that develops land-use standards for cultivating marijuana and voted 4-1 Tuesday to adopt several amendments, with Supervisor Peter Adam dissenting.

“We simply want the county to take a step back and reconsider its options,” said Peter Imhof, Goleta planning & environmental review director, noting the city believes the county’s ordinance places incompatible uses — marijuana cultivation — too close to residential neighborhoods and other sensitive sites, among other concerns. “This is something the city of Goleta doesn’t find acceptable.”

Imhof’s comments were echoed by other public comment speakers, many of them attorneys, who addressed the supervisors and requested that the board reconsider its decision to support the new ordinance. 

Carpinteria City Attorney Dylan Johnson urged the board to revisit the new rules to ensure there’s a balance of industry growth and city viability, which he wasn’t sure is happening. The South Coast city has struggled with numerous cannabis operations that residents say are causing tremendous odor problems in the community.

“I do know that we are experiencing negative impacts now and expect them to grow as the industry grows,” he said.

California voters passed Proposition 64 in November 2016 legalizing recreational marijuana use and the state started issuing temporary licenses for cultivation, manufacturing, retail and other related businesses on Jan. 2.

Santa Barbara County banned recreational marijuana operations, including dispensaries and cultivation, while the supervisors worked to develop and adopt its own regulations

Under the new rules, outdoor cultivation is banned in AG-1 zones within 1,500 feet of residential zoning and sensitive sites such as schools and day care and youth centers. Buffer zones are set at 600 feet for nurseries and 750 feet for all other uses from the urban rural boundary line.

Additionally, conditional use permits are now required for parcels 20 acres or smaller located in the AG-1 zone as well as those in AG-1-5 and AG-1-10 zones.

Supervisors will discuss cannabis regulations again on March 20, including caps on retail establishments, and on Tuesday Supervisor Das Williams pushing for a discussion of capping cultivation, whether by region or through permits, something the ordinance doesn’t address.

“We have to figure out boundaries for caps at some point,” Williams said.

Supervisor Janet Wolf said if the board had wanted to cap cultivation, it never should have approved penning a letter that allows individuals to obtain temporary growing licenses from the state.

She claims the county has more cultivation licenses issued than any other areas in the state, even more than Humboldt County.

“We need to get a handle on what is happening now,” Wolf said, noting she was all for a more restrictive ordinance. “They are growing exponentially.”

Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said he wasn’t willing to re-open the ordinance simply to discuss capping cultivation, which he thought could be addressed through a licensing mechanism.

“There are things I would love to change today but I think the path is to move forward,” Lavagnino said. “I know it’s not perfect but I want to try and get this ordinance in place.”

Planning staff is expected to bring an item to the board’s March 20 meeting that looks at limiting the number of cannabis retail operations in the county to eight, with two storefronts maximum per district. The supervisors told staff to also include information about capping cultivation through licenses when the board talks about its licensing and permitting system.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the supervisors approved language on a 4-1 vote for a June 5 ballot initiative that, if passed by voters, would add a tax to all marijuana-related goods and services in the county, which is estimated to generate between $5 million and $25 million for county coffers. Adam again dissented.

Under the tax plan, individuals would pay 1 percent of gross receipts for nursery operations, 1 percent of gross receipts for distributor operations, 3 percent of gross receipts for manufacturers, 4 percent gross receipts on cultivators, 6 percent gross receipts for retailers, and 6 percent for micro-businesses.

If the initiative passes, the proposed tax would become effective July 1.

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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