Cannabis will be considered an agricultural product allowed on agricultural preserves if the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approves a recommended resolution at its meeting Tuesday.
But the board will also consider introducing an amendment to the Right to Farm Ordinance that, if ultimately approved, would exempt cannabis from the protections the ordinance provides other agricultural products.
Supervisors are scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. in the Board Hearing Room on the fourth floor of the County Administration Building at 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara.
North County citizens can watch the meeting and provide public comments from the Supervisors Conference Room in the Joseph Centeno Betteravia Government Administration Building at 511 E. Lakeside Parkway in Santa Maria.
The meeting also will be live-streamed by CSBTV and can be viewed on YouTube and on the Board of Supervisors website at www.countyofsb.org/bos by clicking on “Live and archived videos” near the bottom of the page.
Adding cannabis to the Uniform Rules as a qualifying use will allow farmers with land in agricultural preserve status to add cannabis to their mix of crops or move to cannabis only without jeopardizing that status.
The Uniform Rules establish the production requirements for placing land under a Williamson Act or other agricultural preserve contract that provides a reduction in property taxes for the owners.
In exchange, the land owner agrees to keep the land in agricultural production that meets those requirements for 10 or 20 years, a term that rolls over every year if the contract is renewed.
If a farmer decides to remove the land from ag preserve status at any time, it must remain in agricultural production for the full 10- or 20-year term from the point the contract is not renewed before the contract will actually terminate.
The goal of ag preserve contracts is to encourage farmers to keep farming and to maintain the rural character and open spaces of the county.
Certain uses — like storage, processing and housing — are considered compatible on ag preserves but do not count toward meeting the acreage requirements set forth by the Uniform Rules, and they are limited to a certain percentage of the property.
In addition to making cannabis cultivation a qualifying use, the board will consider making processing operations, like trimming and drying, and manufacturing oils and food from cannabis a compatible use, provided at least 10 percent of the material used is produced on the property.
Retail sales and marketing would not be allowed under the proposed resolution.
Right to Farm
While the proposed Uniform Rules changes will make cannabis an agricultural product for the purpose of ag preserves, a proposed amendment to the Right to Farm Ordinance will prevent cannabis cultivation from receiving the same kind of protection the ordinance affords other agricultural crops.
The Right to Farm Ordinance protects agricultural activities that have been in operation for more than three years from being declared a nuisance as a result of changes in the surrounding area.
For example, it would not allow residents of a new housing project built next to an existing broccoli field from having the farming operation shut down because they considered the odor a nuisance.
Part of the reasoning behind not providing cannabis the same protection is that cannabis is still considered a controlled substance by the federal government and it has different potential adverse effects than from other crops.
In addition, cannabis operations must meet unique development standards and the crop is taxed differently than other ag products — or will be if voters pass the supervisors’ proposed cannabis tax plan by approving Measure T on the June 6 primary ballot.
If supervisors approve introducing the Right to Farm Ordinance amendment, it must be brought back for a second reading and final approval at a future meeting.