Cannabis workload called 'overwhelming' by Santa Barbara County leaders

Permits, applications and policy changes ongoing

Cannabis grows and permit applications have been called "overwhelming" by Santa Barbara County Supervisors. (KEYT photo)

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The impact of the cannabis industry on Santa Barbara County is coming from a variety of directions. It includes a very heavy work load for the front line staff. 

"The whole system we have created, that is taking multiple years to get through the permit process we just have to fix that.  Everything is falling  apart," said County Supervisor Gregg Hart.

County Supervisor Joan Hartmann said,  "We have a lot of permits in the process and this is an overwhelming work effort for our county and especially with all the appeals. I think we are overwhelmed and cannabis is taking over."

There are both temporary permits and those applying for fully approved permits, business licenses and other approvals.

Some are being slowed by the lack of a full and complete policy along with issues raised by residents, mainly near the operations.  They have spoken out strongly about air quality, buffer zones from residential and sensitive sites and other quality of life issues.

Growers who say they are playing by the rules have spent thousands of dollars on remedies including odor control systems.   They have also said at recent meetings, they are creating new, well-paid jobs, buying locally and donating to local causes.

Santa Barbara County is trying to beef up the oversight of cannabis and limit the number of acres, even though from the applications, it is still unclear how many will make it through the process.

Crafting local rules has to also take place without conflicting with state policies.

Hart said, "They put on their permit this is what we are going to do, we are going to have this many acres of cannabis in this way, and I don't understand how the state license governs that or restricts that and the change in the state license governs that or restricts that in any way. Seem like we are in control." 

 A big issue now is a  lack of staff,  a burdensome review period, hearings and still to be finalized policy amendments.

Newer staff positions and consultants are being added.

More conditional use permit issues  - where there could be lengthy appeals, has Supervisor Steve Lavagnino saying, "that's just a logistical impossibility if not a nightmare scenario."

Hartmann added, "It is a burden on us. It is a burden on the applicant. It is a burden for the neighbors who have to go through this process."

Tracking odors could take scientific testing.
Wind studies have also been suggested

Supervisor Das Williams said.  "We would have some better understanding of the origin of odor, in case all the other moves we have done haven't solved them."

Williams says three testing sites in the Carpinteria Valley could be enough to get specific answers on odor issues raised by residents there.

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