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John de Friel, president of the Lompoc Valley Cannabis Association, answers a question as other members of the panel listen, during a "Cannabis Conversation" luncheon on Jan. 17 at the Hilton Garden Inn. The Lompoc Valley Cannabis Association this month released the results of a poll it commissioned on cannabis issues in Santa Barbara County.

A majority of Santa Barbara County voters would like to see county leaders work to sustain a regulated cannabis industry and would also like to see the local cannabis and wine industries work together for the benefit of everyone, according to polling data released this month.

Those findings, among others, were the result of a poll commissioned by the Lompoc Valley Cannabis Association that involved more than 900 registered voters in Santa Barbara County who were surveyed through social media platforms over a one-week period in February. The results of the 35-question survey, which were compiled by Change Research, were recently revealed by Rodriguez Strategic Partners on behalf of the Lompoc Valley Cannabis Association.

The survey included a wide range of questions and found that respondents from both ends of the political spectrum showed a clear desire for local policymakers to enact policies that ensure the county’s cannabis economy is able to thrive and also help the broader overall economy.

“The results of the poll are very clear,” said John De Friel, president of the Lompoc Valley Cannabis Association and co-founder of Central Coast Agriculture. “Overwhelmingly, the voters of Santa [Barbara] County want a stable, reliable, regulated and legal local cannabis industry that spurs economic prosperity, produces good-paying jobs and adds to the quality of life of our community. Moreover, we are encouraged that recent initiatives to co-market and partner with the wine-tasting and grape-farming industry [are] strongly supported.”

Sam Rodriguez, a consultant/lobbyist with Rodriguez Strategic Partners, said he's seen similar polls conducted throughout the state, but that Santa Barbara County was unique in its strong support for the cannabis industry. He said the results of the poll were shared with each of the county's supervisors.

"Every municipality, in dealing with cannabis, is regulating it differently, so this was an opportunity to gain information — what are the top issues that the voters of Santa Barbara County really care about?" Rodriguez said.

The polling found that 76 percent of voters supported having the county take action to sustain the legal cannabis industry, while 15 percent opposed those efforts. Of those supporters, 46 percent said they would “strongly support” the county “doing everything it can.”

Suggesting that cannabis is a bipartisan issue, the poll found that support for the industry was shown by 85 percent of people identifying as Democrats, 69 percent of Independents and 64 percent of Republicans.

Further, the poll conductors reported that 53 percent of voters who said they cast votes against Proposition 64 — the Adult Use of Marijuana Act that legalized the industry statewide in 2016 — want the county to help bolster the industry.

Regarding the wine industry, 34 percent of respondents reportedly said they believed it can be complemented by the cannabis industry, which was nearly three times the 12 percent of respondents who said they believed the industries were competitors.

Overall, according to the poll results, 32 percent of voters said they most closely associate wine tasting and vineyards with local tourism, a higher rate than that of any other industry or activity.

Asked if they felt that the cannabis and wine industries should work together to spur economic growth and contribute to the county’s overall quality of life, 63 percent of voters reportedly agreed, while 24 percent disagreed. Conversely, 66 percent of voters said they disagreed that the cannabis industry was hurting tourism and the wine industry.

When asked to rank the top three cannabis-related issues in the county, 45 percent of respondents reportedly listed combating organized crime among the top three. The other issues selected by more than 30 percent of voters were enforcement of unlicensed cannabis operators (35 percent), prohibiting access to underage consumers (34), limiting overtaxation and overregulation (33), supporting cannabis farmers’ cultivation and growth (32) and treating cannabis as an agricultural commodity (31).

Among the other findings from the poll:

  • Sixty-three percent of voters support the county encouraging and providing tax incentives to local farmers to produce industrial hemp, while 26 percent oppose.
  • Fifty-four percent support Assembly Bill 286, which was introduced in the California Legislature this year and would suspend the state cultivation tax and lower the excise tax on cannabis, moves aimed at deterring black market operators. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they opposed the bill.
  • Most voters don’t have significant problems with the scent of cannabis, as just 28 percent said they were “bothered” by it. The other 72 percent said they either did not consider it an odor or considered it an odor but were not bothered by it.
  • Eighty-two percent of respondents said they either consume cannabis themselves or know someone who does, and of that group, 32 percent said they or someone they know consumes cannabis with wine.

The poll’s findings did not vary greatly between genders or age groups.

It is unclear exactly how the poll results will be used by the Lompoc Valley Cannabis Association, a trade organization founded last year to support the local cannabis industry, but De Friel suggested they painted a clear picture.

“We should examine new economic incentives that stimulate our local community to be more competitive in the marketplace in California and not measures that may hinder our ability to grow and prosper,” he said.

The poll was conducted Feb. 15 through Feb. 20, and Change Research reported that it used its bias correct engine to attain a sample reflective of the electorate. Noting that most people don't have landlines and that most cellphone numbers are on do-not-call registries, Rodriguez said the surveys were compiled primarily through Facebook and Instagram.

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Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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