To the extent the cannabis genie has gotten out of the bottle throughout Santa Barbara County — as some critics contend — the County Planning Commission voted last week to try to jam it back in. By a vote of 3-2, the commissioners embraced new and stricter regulatory hoops for would-be cultivators to jump through.
If such measures are eventually adopted by the county supervisors, cannabis cultivation on agriculturally zoned land — on parcels less than 20 acres — abutting urban and suburban areas would be required to obtain conditional-use permits first rather than a simple land-use development, as is now the case. The conditional permit is harder to obtain, requires more review, and gives neighbors and critics more of a venue to object.
The two dissenting commissioners objected not because the new rules were too strenuous but because they were not strenuous enough; they preferred an outright prohibition.
Critics of the emerging cannabis industry have complained that county officials opened the doors too wide, too soon, and too fast. They cite statistics showing that Santa Barbara has more temporary and provisional license applications than any other county in the state. While that fact remains true, Santa Barbara County’s edge over its closest competition — Humboldt County — has diminished substantially