Cannabis growers are not required to have odor control systems until they have permits, a slow process in Santa Barbara County — but that could change.
Deputy County Executive Officer Dennis Bozanich is proposing ordinance amendments that include odor control as a condition for business license applications, and the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss the ideas and provide direction at Tuesday’s meeting.
About 100 operators have submitted applications to grow marijuana in unincorporated areas of the county, and a few dozen of them that have been “grandfathered in” are cultivating while they work through the arduous county and state permitting process.
Community members have long complained about odor issues from the farms, which are not required to comply with the county ordinances until they have county permits and business licenses — and very few have them yet. Then there are the allegedly illegal growing operations, the target of Cannabis Compliance Team enforcement actions.
Bozanich, who has been managing the county’s cannabis ordinance process, said his office has been working on the proposal since April.
It seems like an obvious move, given the ongoing odor complaints, especially in areas with concentrated cultivation such as the Carpinteria Valley. So what prompted Bozanich to propose it now?
“Probably public comment,” he told Noozhawk.
The county already requires applicants to have security plans implemented before being issued a cannabis business license.
Growers could see purchasing expensive odor control systems as a risk, without a guarantee of getting a permit and license, but they could stop growing while their application is processed, Bozanich explained.
The staff report for Tuesday includes potential ordinance amendments such as a countywide cannabis cultivation operations acreage cap; to demonstrate odor control operation during the business license application process; and concurrent processing of business license and land use entitlement applications.
Bozanich also is proposing that the county evaluate cannabis-related land-use permit and business license applications at the same time to speed up the review process.
“It’s taken anywhere from three to nine months for operators to get through,” he said, adding that some applications take longer because of unpermitted structures on the properties that must be re-permitted — or destroyed.
If that and the odor control requirement are supported by the Board of Supervisors, odor control systems would be required even earlier, he noted.
The proposal to require odor control will be discussed after the Board of Supervisors decides on other cannabis ordinance amendments, such as limits to growing on AG 1-zoned parcels and expanded noticing requirements.
The supervisors are scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Joseph Centeno Betteravia Government Administration Building, 511 E. Lakeside Parkway in Santa Maria.
Changes to State Provisional Licensing Program
Santa Barbara County has 52 operators with provisional licenses as of early July, according to Bozanich, which accounts for about 156 acres of cannabis cultivation, and 700 state provisional and temporary licenses.
The provisional licenses are temporary state licenses as a holdover measure while operators go through local permitting, which includes environmental review. A California annual license requires operators to have the necessary local permits and business licenses.
The Legislature recently voted to extend the provisional license program by two years, through 2023.
It means that operating cannabis-related businesses have a longer time to get through local permitting. It allows them to keep selling in the legal market and requires them to use the state’s Track-and-Trace System for cannabis inventory, Bozanich said.
New operators won’t be affected by the provisional license extension, he said.
The legislation, Assembly Bill 97, is a cannabis budget trailer bill that was passed by both the state Senate and Assembly last week, according to the office of state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara.
Jackson voted against it, and she said in a statement that she is not opposed to marijuana legalization but is concerned by the cannabis industry that, “in the absence of adequate oversight and enforcement,” is “encroaching” on communities and quality of life in Santa Barbara County.
“Many of us who work in state government feel the frustrations of the very limited authority granted to us under Proposition 64 to help residents experiencing the outsized burden of cannabis cultivation,” she said.
“However, one lever we do possess at the state level is through the granting of licenses to growers. I had hoped that this trailer bill language might be better refined to help us get at bad actors, ensure adequate environmental review and provide greater safeguards. Unfortunately, those changes were not made, and for that reason, I am not able to support this legislation.”
Assemblywoman Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, voted on the bill in April before it had cannabis language, her office noted. She did not record a vote for the full Assembly vote on the bill, in late June.
“Given the conversations happening in Santa Barbara County, I was hoping to see a bill that addressed environmental review as well as health and safety impacts on our communities through a public process,” she said in a statement about the final bill.
— Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.