Laws surrounding the growth and distribution of cannabis in Santa Barbara have been described as “a cluster-fuck” by Joe Garcia, who heads the Lompoc Valley Cannabis Coalition.
The heady celebrations on New Year’s Day, when downtown Santa Barbara was filled with the aroma of weed and most passers-by had “that look” on their smiling faces, have quickly evaporated as the cold hard facts surrounding the legalized recreational use of cannabis have emerged.
Proposition 64 became a new state law last year November, and because it calls for each jurisdiction to adopt its own ordinance, rules surrounding the sale of recreational cannabis differ vastly from city to county across the entire State of California.
So, “weedsters” dreams of strolling down to the corner shop to make their doobie purchases have been struck down as law-makers throughout California set about introducing their own rules and regulations for the sale of recreational cannabis.
While it may be legal to smoke weed in Santa Barbara, users have a two-hour journey down Highway 101 to reach their closest outlets in Los Angeles.
Complicating the issue even further is the fact that growers, distributors, and sellers who previously operated under medical-marijuana laws, now have to obtain temporary state licenses. The irony of the situation is that as of January 1 this year there are fewer legal cannabis operators than on the last day of 2017!
Santa Barbara City
Residents of Santa Barbara have been able to order weed online for medicinal use for many years. All it took was a 10-minute interview, via Skype, with a doctor and in no time at all a courier would arrive on their doorstep with their online purchases.
In terms of the new law, delivery services must be legally connected to a retail outlet, and there are no legal retail outlets in Santa Barbara City!
Optimists believe that doobie shops could open their doors by May, but others are more skeptical, predicting that it could take until 2019 for this to happen.
County of Santa Barbara
There are about 400 acres of cannabis under cultivation in the county. Growers operate from hoop houses situated on outdoor fields near Lompoc, greenhouses in Carpinteria Valley, and indoor warehouses in Goleta.
But until now Santa Barbara County hasn’t issued distribution licenses, and so growers are prevented from transporting their cannabis crops to retail outlets – hence Garcia’s “cluster-fuck” comment. According to one Santa Barbara grower, existing licensed distributors are demanding outrageous fees of up to 45 percent.
Instead, cultivators from Santa Barbara County have sold most of their crops to dispensaries for medical marijuana in Los Angeles.
Now get this! Adding to the nightmare is that temporary state licenses to operate legally are being stalled in L.A. because of that city’s “social equity program” which places people with previous marijuana convictions ahead of current (and previously legal) operators to receive cannabis-related permits.
There was no doubt a loud cheer from cannabis operators when Lompoc City Councilmen approved retail shops and cannabis operations within the city limits.
Suddenly there was a demand for previously abandoned warehouses and storefronts, fueling substantial increases in real estate prices.
Garcia approvingly described the council decision as allowing an underground culture “to rise from the ashes of prohibition.”
Carpinteria Valley has changed its face from a successful cut-flower industry to evolve as the cannabis cultivation heart of the county. Dilapidated buildings have become prime real estate for greenhouses, some as large as 150 000 square feet.
But cultivation has led to “skunky” odors permeating the town, and concerned neighboring citizens have launched campaigns to regulate these smells. Growers, however, have laughed off these complaints, stating that odors from cultivating broccoli and garlic are far worse.
“Weedsters” beware. Santa Maria City Council had adamantly vetoed any form of legalized cannabis sales, cultivation or distribution within its city limits.
Dr David Bearman of Goleta is concerned that medical marijuana could receive the cold shoulder and simply be “thrown under the bus.”
He points out that in Washington State doctors have to write down patients’ diagnoses, violating the laws of privacy. He described this action as “regulating confidentiality and the practice of medicine.”
State regulations combine medicinal and adult recreational use as one and the same program, but patients can still obtain state-sponsored Medical Marijuana Identification Cards from the California Public Health Department. This exempts them from taxes, unlike users of weed for recreational purposes.
The tax revenue from the cannabis industry is hailed by Santa Barbara County Republican leaders as a much-needed cash injection for local economies. This is of particular importance as the state is adopting an increasingly hostile attitude to oil and gas drilling.
The cannabis industry is earmarked to generate about $1 billion in state tax revenue during the first year of legalization.