The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors have rejected most of the findings and recommendations made in a County Grand Jury report critical of the board’s cannabis ordinance process.
The supervisors made their stance clear at Tuesday’s meeting by voting to send the presiding judge of the Santa Barbara County Superior Court a written response to the report.
Of the 12 findings the Grand Jury report makes, those most pointedly directed at the board included accusations that the board didn’t adequately consider the health and welfare of county residents when coming up with the cannabis ordinance. The findings also included that the board’s ad hoc committee for creating cannabis regulations wasn’t subject to the Brown Act and lacked transparency, and that the board was “overly chummy” with cannabis industry professionals.
Save two findings regarding the county’s unverified affidavit system for legal cannabis growing, the board decided to reject the rest of the findings and only implement one recommendation, that the County Treasurer-Tax Collector be involved with the creation of future ordinances.
While quarantined away from the board chambers due to a member of his staff contracting COVID-19, 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino took exception to the Grand Jury’s allegations that the board frequently met with cannabis industry lobbyists and kept the public in the dark about it. The reason being, he said, those lobbyists don’t exist.
“As far as I know we have zero registered lobbyists in Santa Barbara County. There are no lobbyists,” he stated.
Mr. Lavagnino added that the Grand Jury is confusing lobbyists with “somebody that cares about an issue that’s coming in to speak to one of us,” people he spends his “entire day” talking to.
In an interview with the News-Press, 1st District supervisor Das Williams said that individuals from both sides of the marijuana argument had unimpeded access to him and his colleagues, not just the pro-cannabis side.
“I don’t think the Grand Jury really looked at how often we met with people on the other side of the debate,” he said. “I met with them quite often and I believe other supervisors met with them as well.”
As for the allegation that developing the cannabis ordinance through an ad hoc committee lacked transparency, Mr. Williams said the ad hoc committee is “the least bad way to draft an ordinance” in time-sensitive situations.
Other options are to have staff draft an entire ordinance or do it entirely before the board, but the former runs the risk of the board disliking the ordinance and in one fell swoop, shooting down months, if not years, of staff work. The latter, as Mr. Williams said, “takes eons” to get done.
Despite his disagreements about most of the Grand Jury’s findings, Mr. Williams does agree with its finding that cannabis odor impacts remain an issue. Under the cannabis ordinance, if a cannabis business operator produces odor that is detectible to the surrounding neighbors three times, then the county can step in and take corrective action.
“I continue to want the county to litigate against folks who have not adequately addressed odor control,” he said.
Though he wasn’t on the board when the cannabis ordinance was drafted, 2nd District supervisor and board chair Gregg Hart remarked that the Grand Jury failed to mention the recent cannabis mitigation actions the board has taken to address some of the problems cited in the report. These include enacting a cap on cannabis production in Santa Barbara County and eliminating land zoned AG-1 under 20 acres a parcel from being eligible for cannabis cultivation.
“A lot of the issues that the Grand Jury raised about policy and planning are changing and I have been supportive of that,” he said. email: firstname.lastname@example.org