The author is a regular contributor to Voices. He lives in Solvang.
I recently met with the 3rd District Supervisor of Santa Barbara County. The county is now the largest grower of marijuana in California. Accordingly, having either attended or watched every board meeting when cannabis was on the agenda, I asked her why there had been no discussion/deliberation or legislation about health issues associated with marijuana. Her response was that there had been such discussions. I believe that is true.
However, those discussions had no reference to the health risks associated with inhalation, ingestion or topical application of marijuana or its derivatives.
Advertising by the marijuana industry in 2019 alone will top approximately $1 billion and change. Ads proclaiming cures of everything from cancer to pimples are appearing everywhere, in brochures at drugstores, in double-page color ads in national magazines for cooking, beauty applications, aches and pains, etc.
Anecdotal claims of benefits for rare forms of childhood epilepsy, stress and anxiety, sleep, moderation of pain and discomfort from chemotherapy, cognition, canine hemp, hip and joint “chews,” substitutes for Viagra, etc. are everywhere. Graham Farrar, a close buddy and large contributor to Supervisor Das Williams, advertises his operation as a sort of theme park.
State Proposition 64, which legalized “recreational marijuana,” has a clause which authorizes municipalities and counties to forbid growth and manufacture of marijuana. Only 161 of California’s 482 municipalities and 24 of the 58 counties have opted to allow commercial cannabis activity of any sort.
The looming question is why did the five supervisors of the county crash through and introduce growers, subject to as-yet-finalized restrictions, without first pausing to consider medical and scientific research that would address the possible dangers to health?
The initial given excuse for this haste appears to be money. The county has an approximately $2 billion liability in deferred obligations for pensions and infrastructural maintenance. It also needs money for enforcement of illegal grower operations. I suppose it also needs money to fund salaries like that of County CEO Mona Miyasato, who in 2017 had an annual salary and benefit package of $364,588. The average of top level staff in the county as of 2017 was close to $375,000, with the county psychiatrist and his assistant receiving a total of $748,872.
Supervisors also appear deaf to concerns about gigantic white hoop structures, which are beginning to cover the landscape, and the money-mad residents who trumpet “20 acres/20 million.” Some aspiring growers strum heartstrings with statements like, “We support our family on what we grow.”
Little concern is given to the obvious intersection of the county’s prized wine industry, its tax revenues, as well as tourism, which is generated by the romance and beauty of wine, the beachside resorts, and the reputation of the county as a great place to visit with cultural and entertainment locales. Statistics from 2017-18 indicate that visitor direct spending equaled $1.9 billion.
So now Santa Barbara can also attract tourists to tours of pot farms, lovely landscapes from which to enjoy “highs,” amorous stimulatives, cures of various depleting physical problems, finely textured tanned skin, and a host of imagined joys.
Meanwhile, high school kids will emulate parents who enjoy weed in lieu of a sip of wine at dinnertime, vape themselves into emergency rooms, lower their intelligence quotas, increase fatalities from impaired drivers, and other stuff that the average thoughtful person would seek to avoid.
Our supervisors, primarily attending to the 1st and 3rd districts, have allowed the weed tidal wave to breach the levees.
Perhaps the sky is falling. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, cover your heads.