SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors continues to consider criteria for retail cannabis dispensary licenses in unincorporated parts of the county.
The Board voted Tuesday to approve considerations for a 'neighborhood compatibility scorecard' that a third-party group will use to evaluate applicants. That scorecard's metrics--which includes community input--are only one part of the thorough evaluation process.
This comes after the Board asked for public opinion on the matter this summer. As a result, many residents in areas where retail cannabis operations are being considered have spoken out in opposition.
Top of mind are several concerns about a potential retail cannabis location: being in an inappropriate area where children are often present; leading to more crime or safety concerns; creating parking difficulties and busier traffic; or introducing pervasive cannabis odor to an area.
The County has six designated areas that can receive, at most, one licensed cannabis retail location--including Santa Ynez, Los Alamos, Orcutt, Isla Vista, the eastern Goleta Valley and the Summerland-Toro Canyon-Santa Claus Lane area.
People on Santa Claus Lane were divided in their answers when asked about the issue on Tuesday. Some--including a property owner on the street--said they would welcome a dispensary.
Several people who believe a dispensary would not be a good fit in the area called into Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting to express their disapproval.
The concerns even made Supervisor Das Williams--who has a track record of supporting the local cannabis industry--take a moment to reconsider the idea of a retail operation in some areas.
“The [evaluation] process still has room for dissent and yes-or-no question on whether a dispensary should go forward,” he said. “But I’m increasingly convinced that without public opinion changing dramatically, this is not headed in the direction of—at least me—supporting a dispensary.”
Graham Farrar, CEO of 'The Farmacy' in the city of Santa Barbara, says his dispensary can be used as an example for why cannabis retail locations can work in unincorporated areas of the county.
Farrar says the 'Farmacy' has been open for nearly a year and has not seen any of the problems people associate with dispensaries, like increased crime, people loitering or parking problems.
“The ‘Not in my backyard’ thing... you really gotta step back,” he said. “A place where we wouldn’t wanna put a liquor store is probably not a great place for a cannabis dispensary. And any place where we would allow a liquor store, if anything, a dispensary is less in-your-face because of all the regulations, safer because of all the regulations.”
Farrar says his dispensary's customers are the same people that frequent upscale shops and restaurants in Santa Barbara, and that a dispensary in unincorporated areas would bring in a desirable customer base to neighboring businesses.
He also says rigid regulations mean only qualified, dedicated operators would be able to open a dispensary in the county.
“I think the vast majority of people in Santa Barbara were happy to have cannabis,” he said. “They’re happy to have the jobs. They’re happy to have access for adults. They’re happy to have the tax revenue.”
The application and evaluation process is scheduled to begin this fall.