Municipal Risk Alert: Santa Barbara County, California to Address Cannabis Cultivation Concerns

Santa Barbara County will hold a meeting today to review changes to the county’s cannabis ordinance that are intended to address concerns about odors and safety caused by the numerous cultivation facilities in the unincorporated areas. The Board of Supervisors is expected to provide staff with direction on amendments to cannabis regulations that will impact the industry’s future in the area.

Santa Barbara County’s cannabis industry has become the largest in California with hoop houses being constructed throughout the county. Local businesses and citizens are also voicing concerns about the impact on the health and safety of residents as well as the impact on tourism. Proponents of regulation state that the hoop houses emit noxious odors through vents without appropriate mitigating technology.

The proponents of regulatory changes include the Cities of Carpinteria and Goleta, which submitted letters to the county outlining their concerns about cultivation activity including an increase in crime and economic concerns. In the letters, the cities request that the county immediately enact an ordinance that requires cultivators to shut down if they do not have the required odor mitigating technology as required under the Coastal Zoning Ordinance or if they illegally expand through non-conforming uses.

The Goleta Chamber of Commerce indicated in a letter submitted to Santa Barbara County that outdoor growing produces noxious odors that are flowing into the city that creates skin, nose and eye irritation. The city is concerned that additional industrial cannabis cultivation will negatively impact tourism and the local economy.

The debate in Santa Barbara County may have a widespread impact on outdoor grow facilities. It may also prompt local authorities to adopt regulations limiting the cultivation of hemp. Our data shows that over 30 counties in California have already adopted a moratorium or have not directly addressed the issue of hemp cultivation. This may be the beginning of a long road for the industry.