Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors Approves Study To Address Ongoing Cannabis Odor

The topic of odor is prevalent among communities in close proximity to cannabis cultivation operations, and Santa Barbara is no different. Recently the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors met on April 23 to discuss how to tackle the issue, and ultimately voted 3-2 to commission a study to evaluate further options.

According to Santa Barbara Independent, there are some expensive tech devices such as carbon filters (nicknamed “scrubbers”) that could potentially reduce cannabis aroma, ultimately preventing it from being detected outside of the facilities. However, scrubbers are priced at $22,000 a piece, and in order for them to be effective, a grow would need one for every 10 acres. More fees are factored in later with “electrical upgrades,” which the Santa Barbara County planners told the board it would be a “potentially prohibitive expense.”

Both Board Chair Steve Lavagnino and Supervisor Das Williams, who helped push along Santa Barbara County’s 2018 cannabis ordinance, stated that it wouldn’t be fair to require cultivators to purchase such machines. Supervisor Joan Hartman agreed as well, and the trio voted in the majority to have a six-month study commissioned.

Currently, there are only five greenhouses that have scrubbers, out of a total of 20 operating in Carpinteria Valley, located east of the city of Santa Barbara. 

The study would analyze “power upgrades that may be necessary in advance of scrubber installations,” according to Santa Barbara Independent. Hartman said that she supported scrubbers for greenhouses, but also wants to see a resolution for the cannabis aroma that comes from sungrown operations as well. She claimed that the smell that exists between Highway 246 and Santa Rosa Road, detectable in Buellton and Solvang (located northwest of Santa Barbara) needs to be addressed. “It’s really a disservice to our public not to regulate cannabis odor for the most sensitive people,” Hartman said. “We need to find out where we’re measuring odor, what tool we’re measuring it with and what’s the limit.”

The two supervisors who objected to the study included Bob Nelson and Laura Capps, stating that they wanted to see scrubbers required by all cannabis greenhouses. “My frustration level is coming to a place where I feel we just need to push forward with something,” Nelson said. “… Sometimes, we do too much planning.”

Capps also spoke out about requiring scrubber power upgrades. “Is it our role to be deciding what a business can afford to do?” she asked. Capps concluded that more studies are not what is needed, because “people continue to suffer.” “I don’t think we’re doing our job if we kick the can down the road longer,” she continued. “…Who are we trying to serve? I don’t know what more studies are going to get us, other than more frustration from the neighbors.”

In response, Lavagnino supported the many locals who have gained jobs because of the cannabis industry. “There’s a lot of people who are also our constituents who work at these places,” Lavagnino said. “That’s why when we talk about the cost of these facilities, it matters. People could lose their jobs.”

The study will specifically focus on three primary areas where a strong cannabis aroma is often detected. County planners will utilize a device called a Nasal Ranger, which can measure odor strength.

Carpinteria Valley locals have reported 3,700 odor complaints but none of them have been “verified” by the county, because it’s impossible to find which greenhouse the aroma is coming from. Without verification, the county can’t make any decisions to require scrubbers or other technological devices. “This isn’t working,” Nelson said. “…It’s wildly unsuccessful.…Zero verified complaints is really alarming. Additional planning or studies is not the solution.” Nelson also suggested that scrubbers should be required by growers starting when they renew their license to cultivate. “We could solve this problem and it would no longer exist, and we could stop having these hearings and these issues,” he added. 

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted in February 2018 to allow cannabis cultivation in unincorporated parts of the county. Within the past six years of the passing of this ordinance, the board has only issued one odor violation notice. Carpinteria Valley has 170 acres of land approved for cannabis cultivation, with about 116 acres currently being utilized. 

In the past 15 months, reports have shown that another odor technology that utilizes plant oils in misting systems is working to mask the smells. However, it doesn’t fully eliminate the smell, and instead residents began to complain about the “laundromat” odor from the mist instead.

At the April 23 meeting, numerous cultivators spoke up asking the board not to employ a “one-size-fits-all” type of resolution. Pacific Dutch Group co-president, Tadd McKenzie, explained that growers have already been taking steps to reduce the odor. Improvements “have already been made and will continue to be made by operators,” McKenzie said. “…Using valuable county resources on costly regulatory updates instead of improving ongoing compliance will only make market conditions more favorable to non-tax-paying black-market competitors.”

Another grower, Autumn Shelton from Autumn Brands, said requiring her to install scrubbers or other odor technology would render her business financially infeasible. “While scrubbers is a really great idea, when the market crashes only two years ago, it’s really hard to come back from that and continue to spend and spend and spend,” Shelton said.

Toward the conclusion of the meeting, Williams explained that growers need to continue to work toward some kind of resolution. “The longer anybody delays, the more burdensome the final result will be,” Williams said. “I hope there’s a clear warning sign that progress needs to be made…”

Nelson warned that something will need to change soon to address the ongoing issue. “This is an issue I see coming,” he said. “I want to say again to this industry: Get ahead of it. At some point, if you’re not ahead of it, you’re going to get run over by it.”

The post Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors Approves Study To Address Ongoing Cannabis Odor appeared first on High Times.

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