The author lives in Santa Barbara.
For those of us who have been unlucky enough to do any building in Santa Barbara County, we can all agree that it ain’t easy. Indeed, it’s this knowledge that makes our current cannabis scheme so suspect, atypical and, some would argue, illegal.
Proposition 64 took effect in 2016, and for our current growers to expand their operations from small medical marijuana grows to what are now the largest recreational pot farms in the world, they ultimately needed to file a simple affidavit stating “yes, we were growing medical marijuana on or before Jan. 19, 2016.” No photographic evidence, revenue receipts or other verification, just the affidavit.
This scheme was created because in early 2016, the county banned recreational cultivation except for those who claimed (I won’t use the word “proved”) prior and legal medical marijuana grows.
This single piece of paper — approximately 200 were filed — formed the basis (“Legal Nonconforming Use”) for every provisional state license in the county — a county that now boasts 1,146 such licenses against approximately 70 parcels.
Frankly, it’s utterly amazing how many folks were growing medical marijuana — it was huge. Who would have known?
Anyway, here’s the rub: The county, usually crazy sticklers for belt-and-suspender process, deemed these affidavits sufficient on their face. How about a quick site visit, neighbor interviews or a short search on Google Earth? No, too involved for the second-largest employer in our $950 million county, i.e., the county itself. Who cares if it happens to concern a 20-acre pot farm right next door?
Now, should you want to build a 4-foot wall, be prepared to face the county’s permit army.
And how about settled California law that requires the claimant to prove the prior use at a public hearing where it can be vetted and challenged? This is something, I might add, that the Planning Commission recommended to our Board of Supervisors — after all, it is the claimant seeking a variance/entitlement that is no longer legal. Not in our banana republic county, where when it comes to cannabis, our political monarchy — the Board of Supervisors — sets no reasonable limits.
And the costs? Well, unbelievably, the supervisors require that other non-profiting residents pay. Huh?
I’m thinking about seeking a variance for an open air dump, a truly great business. I can’t wait for the county to require my complaining neighbors to belly up.
Strange madness, wouldn’t you agree?
Still, the fight goes on for sensible cannabis solutions (e.g., sealed greenhouses). Attorneys, residents and community groups all bow at the altar of our kangaroo court, but nothing changes.
Are the affidavits true and correct? Isn’t the county required to “adjudicate” the claims, at least according to our state Supreme Court?
As questions and accusations swirl, the one thing we know for certain is that in this election year, money has flowed like a river from special interests to our supervisors and politicians.
But hey, this is America, and unless we make a change at the ballot box in March and November, we all can expect more of the same.