Elayne Klasson Mug Update

At Tuesday's Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors hearings on cannabis, there was much talk about the positive aspects of growing and using pot.

I might have gotten a contact high just from being in the audience. I feel slightly confused and unclear about my thoughts on the issue.

There were hundreds of people signed up to give statements to the supervisors about cannabis growing.

A limit of two minutes for each speaker was strictly enforced, and opinions on aspects of growing — both pro and con — varied wildly. There was passion from both sides.

Board Chairman Steve Lavagnino cautioned the audience not to cheer or applaud, saying applause would result in people booing those speakers they disagreed with, and that cheers and boos might lead to animosity in the crowd. It was a wise decision.

The audience and supervisors listened silently and politely, at least during the time I observed.

However, there was an exception.

When one speaker used her two minutes to describe how ingesting a daily dose of marijuana had shrunk her cancerous tumors, the audience, for the first time, broke out in enthusiastic applause.

The chairman kindly told this woman that the applause was not reflecting one side against the other — the cannabis growers vs. the anti-cannabis factions.

He said the applause reflected that the audience was cheering her on in her fight against cancer.

“We’re all united against cancer,” Lavagnino said. He was right, being against cancer was at least something everyone could agree on.

However, back to my confused state of mind.

In 2016, along with the majority of Californians, I voted "yes" on Proposition 64, the legalization of recreational marijuana.

In my naivete, I thought how great it would be to decriminalize pot, to stop wasting our state’s law enforcement resources on arresting people for smoking a joint.

I thought Proposition 64 would cut down on criminal types selling cannabis illegally and there would be sensible regulation of a drug that clearly was not going to disappear.

I might have even smoked a bit in my youth (I won’t say whether I inhaled). And I’ve always thought pot was a less dangerous drug than alcohol, the overuse of which causes countless tragedies in our society.

However, then I moved to the Santa Ynez Valley and I thought, "Whoa, wait a minute. Could there be anything uglier than plastic hoops dotting our gorgeous hillside?"

I heard neighbors complain about the offensive smell of mature cannabis plants and how lights under these hoops are left on all night.

What will happen to our bucolic valley? To the wineries and peace treasured by both tourists and locals?

I heard the figures of how an acre of cannabis brings five times what an acre of grape vines brings.

Although the crop generates needed tax revenue, this four-billion-dollar-a-year industry is an entirely different entity than a small family farm of a few pot plants.

It is very big business. And big business attracts corruption.

So, I thought I’d go to today’s supervisors meeting in Santa Maria and try to get my head on straight about pot.

Guess what? Like most issues, it’s complicated. The mayors of Lompoc, Goleta and Carpinteria each took their two minutes to describe the impact that growing cannabis has on their communities.

Cannabis issues will take up most of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday in Santa Maria, where changes to the land use ordinance and the licensing ordinance will be considered. Supervisors are scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. in the Board Hearing Room of the Joseph Centeno Betteravia Government Administration Building at 511 E. Lakeside Parkway.

And even these three articulate mayors held different opinions: Lompoc in favor of pot growing and dispensaries, Carpenteria and Goleta opposed.

The audience today, it must be said, was stacked heavily in favor of the cannabis growing industry. “Let it Grow” pins and shirts were worn by the majority.

Many speakers said they were employed by one of the large growers. One after the other, they spoke enthusiastically of how their bosses were outstanding citizens, gave back to the community, and paid handsome wages and good benefits. These are all fine things.

However, our beautiful Santa Barbara County is rapidly becoming the pot capital of California.

Joe Mozingo, in a well-researched June 15 article in the Los Angeles Times, says there are not enough pot dispensaries in California to buy what will be grown if all the current Santa Barbara County cannabis license applications are granted.

The largest legal marijuana grow on earth — 147 acres — is being planned for the Santa Rita Hills.

Our county, just 1.8% of the land in California, will be holding 35% of all the marijuana cultivation licenses in California. This far exceeds Humboldt County. I gulped when I heard these figures.

Where is all this pot going to go?

This morning, I heard dozens of men and women speak for two minutes each on this complex issue.

To our supervisors' credit, they remained alert and interested in each presenter, asking relevant questions.

I left at noon, but some people told me they expected the hearings to go well into the night.

I wonder if the many people who voted "yes" on Proposition 64 had any idea of the unintentional consequences of the legalization of recreational cannabis.

With my head foggy after this morning, I realized that when I cast my “yes” vote in 2016, I did not.

What awaits the newly anointed cannabis capital of California?

Nearly 15 million people report driving while high on pot, making them twice as likely to be involved in a crash, a new AAA study has found. The study also showed more drivers view texting or talking on cellphones while driving to be more risky behavior than smoking weed and getting behind the wheel, according to the 2018 Traffic Safety Culture Index survey.

 Elayne Klasson, PhD in psychology, is a writer and recent transplant to the Valley. She was formerly on the faculty at San Jose State University. Her new novel, Love is a Rebellious Bird, will be published this November.

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