US (CA): Santa Barbara supervisors put cap on cannabis cultivation

After months of bitterly acrimonious deliberations over cannabis policy ​— ​interspersed with frequent personal attacks ​— ​the tone and tenor of this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting was jarringly cordial. County Supervisor Peter Adam noted with considerable relief, “I wanted to say how nice this discussion has been.”

It was also unusually productive. In a couple of hours, the supervisors managed to pass a hatful of measures designed to tighten the screws on cannabis cultivation in response to growing backlash against a newly legalized industry. The votes were often unanimous or 4-1.

For starters, the supervisors voted to impose a cap on the total acreage of cultivation that could take place at any one time. That’s a big deal because until this week, Santa Barbara was the only coastal county without such an upper limit. Supervisor Joan Hartmann ​— ​who represents the 3rd Supervisorial District and is up for reelection next year ​— ​pushed for the cap, arguing it would help relieve much of the collective “anxiety” and would help understaffed county planners handle the avalanche of cannabis related applications ​— ​171 are pending.

When Hartmann initially hinted at such a cap, its chances were regarded as remote. But as cannabis generated more heat, the idea of a cap got legs. In their deliberations, the supervisors were all over the map as to how many acres they thought should be allowed under the cap: Peter Adam first proposed 200 acres and then 1,000. Adam, usually the most libertarian-inclined supervisor and a farmer himself, pushed for the bigger cap because he worries that cannabis is hampering the cultivation of existing crops such as avocados and wine grapes.

Ultimately, the supervisors voted to peg the cap to the amount of acres in the cannabis cultivation permit application pipeline as of July 9. (That’s the same day, not coincidentally, that more than 200 members of the public spoke for and against cannabis at a 10-hour supervisors’ meeting. By contrast, no members of the public spoke this Tuesday.) As of this week’s meeting, the actual number was not definitively known. With cannabis, the numbers are always changing. And they change fast.


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