Hours after a vegetation fire charred 17 acres in the Santa Rita Hills east of Lompoc on Wednesday, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Cannabis Compliance Team made a late-night raid of an allegedly illegal marijuana farm damaged in the blaze.
County Fire Department investigators have not yet determined a cause for the fire, which started at about 1 p.m. at 4777 Sweeney Road, and damaged agricultural equipment, a shed and a vehicle.
Photos from the fire scene show hoop houses and marijuana plants on site, and Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said the only fire damage was to the cannabis farm property.
After getting a heads-up from fire personnel, the Cannabis Compliance Team obtained a search warrant and served it at the cannabis cultivation site at about 10 p.m. Wednesday, sheriff’s Lt. Erik Raney told Noozhawk.
Investigators determined it was an unlicensed, illegal grow trying to operate in the commercial market, Raney said.
Sheriff’s personnel destroyed about 1,800 plants in various stages of growth, and seized about 100 pounds of processed marijuana, Raney said.
They are still investigating who is responsible for the operation, he added.
An entity called Lit Deliveries, LLC has applied to grow outdoor cannabis on a 40.72-acre parcel at that address, according to the county Planning and Development Department.
The county is still reviewing the cultivation application, which was submitted in May, and proposes using existing and new hoop structures to grow cannabis, legalizing existing storage containers for storage and processing, and adding storage containers to use as offices, drying and inventory.
It was unclear Thursday whether people associated with Lit Deliveries, LLC were growing on the property or someone unrelated to the business.
What is clear is that Lit Deliveries, LLC has no active provisional state licenses for adult-use or medical marijuana cultivation, according to the CalCannabis database.
The operation had one nursery, one medium mixed-light and three small cultivation temporary licenses from the state, but those expired earlier this year, said Deputy County Executive Officer Dennis Bozanich.
“They do not have provisional licenses that would allow them to currently operate while their permit application is pending with Planning & Development,” he added.
Lit Deliveries, LLC submitted an affidavit to the county in December 2017, according to Bozanich.
These documents, which were submitted by dozens of operators, generally claimed the subject properties were used for medical marijuana cultivation in compliance with state laws prior to 2016.
The operators were allowed to continue growing with legal nonconforming status while they go through the permitting process for the commercial market. All temporary state licenses given out at the beginning of that process have expired, and cultivation now requires active state provisional licenses.