Santa Barbara grand jury blasts county supervisors for allowing ‘unfettered access’ to marijuana lobbyists

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A grand jury said Santa Barbara County “opened the floodgates” to marijuana growers, such as this farm in a sprawling greenhouse complex in Carpinteria. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A grand jury said Santa Barbara County “opened the floodgates” to marijuana growers, such as this farm in a sprawling greenhouse complex in Carpinteria. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Santa Barbara County grand jury criticized county supervisors this week for allowing “unfettered access” to marijuana lobbyists as the board voted to let cannabis cultivation explode in the Santa Ynez Valley region and Carpinteria with little regulation and a flimsy tax regime that has deprived the county of millions of dollars.

The 26-page report released Tuesday cited emails showing the close relationship that developed between the industry and two supervisors, along with a lead member of the county executive staff. At times, the grand jury wrote, it seemed lobbyists were not only recommending how the supervisors should vote, but trying to “command” them.

Normally, land-use policy starts with large public meetings and country planning staff, who then make recommendations to the board. But in this case, the grand jury wrote, policy recommendations were hashed out by an ad hoc committee of two supervisors — Das Williams and Steve Lavagnino — which was not subject to open meeting laws. The committee then directed staff on how it wanted the industry to be regulated.

The supervisors met frequently with lobbyists and big growers, often just a day or two before critical board hearings on cannabis.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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