A Grand Jury report released last week demands that the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors amend their cannabis ordinances, finding the body mismanaged the county’s cannabis production, dismissed public input on the ordinances, and ignored environmental impacts, the Santa Barbara Independent reports.
“Instead of a balanced approach carefully evaluating how the cannabis industry would be compatible, both as to amount of acreage and location, the board simply opened the floodgates.” – Grand Jury report, July 1, 2020
At this time last year, cannabis farms in the county held 35 percent of all California cultivation licenses issued in last year, despite only having 1.8 percent of the state’s land, the report says.
The Grand Jury report blasts the objective of the board’s ad hoc committee on cannabis regulations which was to “develop a robust and economically viable legal cannabis industry to ensure production and availability of high quality cannabis products to help meet local demands, and, as a public benefit, improve the County’s tax base,” according to the Independent.
The report says those principles led the board to more easily justify the loss of agricultural resources, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and odors. According to the report, the odors were particularly controversial and drew complaints from several towns. The Grand Jury said the resulting stench “was not an unexpected result of the board’s actions in creating the cannabis ordinances.”
“They knew about the quality of life concerns and chose the revenue potential of cannabis instead,” the report says.
The board was also criticized for not keeping notes and minutes of the cannabis-related meetings. The Grand Jury said the board sought to avoid Public Records Act requests for such documents.
“The lack of a paper trail does not fit with the concept of open government which seeks input from all interests,” the Grand Jury concluded. They also described industry lobbyists “roaming the halls of the board’s offices” and called the email exchanges between the lobbyists, cannabis cultivators, and the board “unnerving.”
The report recommends that the Board of Supervisors prepare new environmental impact reports and hold proper public hearings on the proposals; develop rules that strike a balance between the industry and community; require all future ad hoc committees be open to the public and their records be accessible; and for more oversight, among other reforms.
The board has 90 days to respond to the report.
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