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Temporary Ban on Growing, Selling Marijuana Approved by Santa Barbara Supervisors

A temporary ban on growing and selling non-medical marijuana received unanimous support from the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, as officials attempt to regulate the industry before and after state licensing starts in 2018.

The supervisors passed an interim urgency ordinance, which bans any activities associated with Proposition 64, also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

That means no cultivating, distributing, transporting, storing, manufacturing, processing or selling non-medical/recreational marijuana, marijuana products or industrial hemp in unincorporated Santa Barbara County.

It doesn’t apply to medical marijuana, which is already the subject of a Board of Supervisors ban, with some exemptions for personal use and legal nonconforming cultivation that was already operating as of January 2016.

County leaders wanted to get a Prop. 64-related ban in place before the state starts issuing licenses in January 2018, so they can keep local control of regulations. A permanent ordinance governing non-medical marijuana growing and selling is expected to replace this temporary ban at some point.

First District Supervisor Das Williams said people want to comply with the rules, but the guidelines are confusing. There isn’t enough distinction “between people trying to comply with the law and people being loosey-goosey with the law,” he said.

The county can’t force people to be good neighbors without enforcement, and the enforcement thus far is complaint-driven, he added.

The board also voted 4-1, with Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf dissenting, to create a Non-Personal Cannabis Cultivation and Related Operations Registry Program — which is voluntary for people growing marijuana that’s not for personal use.

There is also no staff work validating whether the self-reported information on the forms is accurate.

The term non-personal was used instead of commercial since it is less legal-sounding and the county doesn’t have a definition of commercial use, county staff said.

Farmers who are already growing marijuana in Santa Barbara County spoke during public comment at the meeting, and some were in favor of the registry, saying it was a step toward getting regulations in place for the county.

The point of the registry is to gather information about existing and future marijuana operations, and perhaps guide the development of a permanent ordinance. The registry forms mention that people who apply to the registry by the end of June may — or may not — be given priority when it comes to permits.

The county asks for personal information, cultivation size, parcel numbers for the property where people grow, employees, and where the water comes from, among other things.

Wolf voted against the registry, saying she didn’t see a purpose for it. The county should instead focus on creating a permanent ordinance and a strong permitting process, she said.

Tuesday’s hearing, just like the previous one on this issue, was packed with people wanting to add their two cents to the discussion.

Many people in the marijuana industry spoke in favor of reasonable regulations for cultivation, while some residents, particularly from the Carpinteria Valley and Tepusquet Canyon near Santa Maria, talked about the negative impacts — not least the strong smell — from the proliferation of marijuana grows in their areas.

The next chance for public input is a town hall meeting scheduled for noon on April 25 at the Planning Commission Hearing Room on the first floor of the County Administration Building at 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara. The session will focus on developing permanent regulations for marijuana cultivation and sales in the county.

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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