CARPINTERIA, Calif. - Cannabis is Carpinteria's newest cash crop and the new reality is still a source of controversy for many residents.
For the first time, our reporter went inside a large greenhouse to look at how a licensed cannabis business operates and meet the three Carpinteria women who launched KopSun, a health and wellness resource promoting what they call, "the misunderstood plant."
“We are champions for the cannabis plant, plain and simple, for all the good it does,” said Tina Frontado, one of KopSun's founders.
Frontado, Leigh-Anne Anderson, and Amy Marie Orozco launched KopSun to help dispel a few of the negative perceptions about marijuana cultivation in the valley and promote the health benefits of the plant that is often stigmatized.
“We feel like our company is really here to demystify that and come out and be loud and proud about what is happening in our valley,” Anderson said.
Over the last several years, Carpinteria has undergone a vast transformation as some farmers slowly turned away from growing flowers and vegetables to harvesting cannabis.
The KopSun website is filled with information about the cannabis lifestyle and curated product lines. The women also offer their "stamp of approval" to some local businesses which are fully licensed and have adopted good environmental practices.
Autumn Shelton's Autumn Brands, is one business which met KopSun's guidelines. Autumn Brands is a locally based cultivator growing pesticide free cannabis. Shelton partners with the owner of a greenhouse in Carpinteria which produces multiple strains for her brand.
“We are so lucky to have the experience of six generations of farmers that originated from Holland and with their expertise we are able to take care of and pay attention to every little detail with our wonderful plants," Shelton said.
Carpinteria's new cannabis enterprise has not been embraced by some residents of the quiet seaside town who have long complained about a disruption in the quality of life, crime and the stench.
“I smell it everyday depending where I am in Carpinteria. There are days when it's better and days when it's worse," said Maureen Foley-Claffey, a member of a grassroots group called Concerned Carpinterians.
Shelton and her partner said they listened to the complaints and researched a variety of options to fix the problem. They believe they found a solution that works.
“It's a waterless odor system," Shelton said. "Rather than trying to mask the smell, it makes it dissipate when it hits the air."
Shelton said about 14 other growers ordered the system, but not all growers have followed suit.
Claffey said the Concerned Carpinterians are not waging a war on pot, but are fighting for more regulations.
“We want good neighbors and ethical practices, getting permits and following the proper laws,” Claffey said.
Shelton said her cannabis is grown under heavy security, including cameras, alarm systems and gates. Inside the greenhouse, every plant is accounted for using a "track and trace" program.
KopSun said it will continue to work with local governments as laws and regulations are being worked out, while also continuing to promote the health, wellness and economic benefits of the marijuana plant.
“What’s really fascinating is here locally we can grow our own medicine and all of our health ingredients right here locally in our valley. We can be able to know who is growing, how it's growing, what the practices are, test, manufacture and distribute all within our county," said Frontado.
KopSun offers leaf learning sessions in small and large groups to answer all questions relating to cannabis.
To learn more, click here.