After an arduous and sometimes contentious all-day special meeting, the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission voted Wednesday to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt a Cannabis Land Use Ordinance that details how marijuana operations could receive permissions and conduct their ventures on land in the county.

The recommendation will go to the supervisors to review, debate and potentially adopt at their Feb. 4 meeting. 

“It is a very, very difficult issue to balance,” said Dan Klemann, deputy director for the county's Planning and Development Department.

One of the Planning Commission’s chief land use concerns was the issue of the odor created by cannabis cultivation and manufacturing.

The recommended ordinance, if adopted, stipulates that all marijuana operations that wish to do business in the unincorporated regions of the county must create an odor abatement plan.

The plan would have to be certified by a professional engineer or industrial hygienist and show that the operation would capture 100 percent of the odors created by the cannabis to reduce potential negative impacts on neighbors.

“You have to eliminate it. If you can’t, then you can’t grow it or manufacture it or anything with it,” said Daniel Blough, 5th District planning commissioner.

The move all but requires cannabis cultivators on land less than 20 acres to grow marijuana indoors or in greenhouse facilities.

“I can’t see, if you are going to do an outdoor grow, how the smell won’t extend out of your property lines,” Blough said.

The recommended ordinance bans odor masking systems that add chemicals to the air to alter the smell of cannabis but don't completely eliminate it.

It further creates a complaint tracking and reporting system and stipulates that an operator who receives multiple complaints during a 365-day period would be subject to a review and possible revocation of cannabis permits and licenses to do business in the county.

Planning and Development leaders warned county officials not to rely on public complaints to regulate the industry and make surprise inspections part of its enforcement program.

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Dianne Black, assistant director of Planning and Development, agreed.

“The way that the county has done enforcement in the past, by and large, has been by complaint,” Black said. “We are anticipating a multi-agency enforcement program, not one that relies on complaints.”

The Planning Commission’s recommendations also included increasing buffer zones around sensitive areas -- like schools, day cares and youth centers -- set by the state.

California law requires 600-foot setback areas for marijuana operations to reduce the exposure of young people to cannabis.

Though there is no evidence that buffer zones actually work, the commission recommended that the zones be increased to 1,000 feet in the Coastal Zone of the county.

“It is based on how other industries are regulated. Like alcohol, they have buffers, 600 feet, 800 feet. Does it make a difference? It is a judgment call,” Klemann said.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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