In a Sept. 22 letter addressed to Honorable Michael J. Carrozzo, presiding judge of the Santa Barbara Superior Court, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors responded to the Civil Grand Jury Report on cannabis, published on June 30. In response to the jury’s 12 findings, the board partially disagreed or dismissed entirely each finding and subsequent recommendations as unwarranted or inaccurate.
Lack of consideration for public health concerns
The board “wholly” disagreed with the jury’s first finding that they inadequately considered the impact of cannabis on the health and welfare of county residents, noting that since 2016, the board held over 40 public meetings on cannabis and reviewed numerous oral and written public comments, including recommendations from the Programmatic Environmental Impact Report for the program. Additionally, the board noted that the Public Health Department participated in the Cannabis Ad Hoc Subcommittee.
Lack of transparency
To the jury’s statement that the creation of a non-Brown Act Ad Hoc Sub Committee that was not open to the public led to a lack of transparency and distrust from residents, the board stated that the subcommittee was publicly created and in accordance with the Brown Act, held three public outreach meetings and twice gave public reports to the full board. Moreover, the board rejected the jury’s recommendation that supervisors require all future ad hoc meetings to be open to the public, stating that this is not necessary as non-Brown Act ad hoc committees are commonly used to resolve issues of great complexity—ad hoc committees, such as the one on cannabis, have no authority to act on behalf of the county, but rather are a mechanism to develop recommendations.
Unfettered access to
Did the board grant “unfettered access to cannabis growers and industry lobbyists” and not disclose these activities to the public? The board responded that the jury’s finding was only partially true. They did not disclose all ex parte communications as they are not required by law to do so, however they did provide access to interested parties, including cannabis, business, media, city and neighborhood leaders, as was the intention of the decision making process to allow constituents and stake holders to be a part of the legislative process. Supervisors admitted to meeting with lobbyists and applicants prior to public hearings, however, they stated that this is not uncommon and not a special case for cannabis.
Supervisors wholly disagreed with the jury’s finding that current cannabis ordinances are excessive and have led to an overconcentration in some areas of the county, including Carpinteria. They noted that they addressed public concerns related to a concentration of commercial cannabis activities by adopting two separate caps on cannabis cultivation and a ban on cannabis activities in EDRNs (adopted in July 2020).
No effective odor control
To the jury’s finding that there is no effective odor control implemented for cannabis activities resulting in “significant public outcry about odor, quality of life and health concerns,” the supervisors stated that “odor control has been one of the most challenging aspects of implementing this program.” Supervisors noted that legal nonconforming medical cannabis cultivation operations are still in transition to compliance, and are therefore not yet required to comply with the county’s odor control regulations. Once all cultivators have completed the compliance process, the county will be able to enforce all odor control regulations and assess the efficacy of these systems.
Settlement reached in cannabis land use permit appeal
Aultmore Capital, Pacific Grown Organics (PGO) and the Santa Barbara Coalition for Responsible Cannabis have announced that they have reached a settlement in the coalition’s appeal of PGO’s proposed cannabis operation in Carpinteria, which will allow PGO to continue their application for a land use permit from the county.
PGO stated that they have created a “robust adaptive management plan to meet the challenge of odor control” and that the coalition was instrumental in developing this plan—the Odor Inquiry Response Plan—that will take into account community feedback to hold cannabis farms accountable in addressing odor drift. PGO has agreed to make public its standard operating procedures for harvesting and their Odor Abatement Plan, including a weather monitoring system, a community outreach list and notification protocols, initial VOC monitoring upon operation, and a robust Odor Inquiry Response and Corrective Action Plan.
“PGO’s commitment to test the effectiveness of this new approach and then do whatever is needed to control odors and prevent impacts to the community convinced us this was a responsible grower who deserved our support,” said Coalition Board member Rob Salomon. “The coalition has been working hard for over a year to create a sustainable and compatible relationship with area growers. We’re glad PGO stepped up to the plate and we look forward to a sustainable future for cannabis in Carpinteria.”