“Doctor, it hurts when I move my arm like this.”

“Hmmm… Well I suggest you don’t move your arm like that.”

That seems logical. Now let’s apply that thinking to an ongoing problem we have here in the Carpinteria Valley…

“Doctor, sometimes when I breathe, I smell a nasty odor that smells like skunk.”

“Hmmm… Well, I suggest you don’t breathe.”

This approach is probably not the best long-term strategy.

Starting in the summer of 2016, residents of the Carpinteria Valley worried about an apparent population explosion of skunks based on the frequency and intensity of the odor never previously experienced to that extent. As summer turned to fall, the understanding began to grow that the source was not pungent little black and white animals, but rather a rapid increase in the amount of cannabis being grown in local greenhouses.

Since this was before the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) (Proposition 64) passed on Nov. 8, 2016, the only legal grows were for medical use. It was curious that such an odor increase hit before the election and before any permits were issued for growing recreational cannabis.

Something to think about: starting this fall, there will not be any students at Carpinteria High School who know what it is like to be in high school without the cannabis odor throughout the school.

Over the past three years, residents tried to figure out how to get the odor addressed, Santa Barbara County developed its cannabis ordinance and the city of Carpinteria participated in the process. Some cannabis growers installed odor control systems to try to address the issue.

There are many moving parts to this process, including important steps being taken in an attempt to reduce odor in the near future. However, there is still a prevailing skunk odor wafting around different parts of the valley as the temperature and breezes change throughout the day.

Until relatively recently, residents were frustrated when we tried to report odor complaints to the county. We were required to provide the specific location of the source of the odor, not just where we smelled it. The county simply did not have the means to investigate odors and determine the source. Making matters worse, even today, cannabis greenhouses with the appropriate permits are still allowed to operate with no odor control at all, at least for a short time longer.

The county is now working on modifying its process to get us to the point where all cannabis greenhouses must have odor control sooner than might otherwise have happened. Once we get past this “transition” period, the county’s Cannabis Ordinance will require that no odor be detectible from any greenhouse anywhere past its property line. After that, any odor detected is a violation by someone, and it will be up to the county to determine the source. Public complaints will be critical to help the county enforce its ordinance.

But even before that point, the county is asking the public to report odors. These complaints are useful in helping the growers who do have odor control to fine-tune their systems if necessary and may help push other growers to install odor control sooner than they might otherwise.

During discussions at the county, the low number of reported odor complaints has sometimes been used to suggest odor is not a problem. More likely, this low number is because the public either does not know how to complain or believes it will have no effect.

I spoke with the appropriate county leaders, and based on the information they provided, here is what you can do to report cannabis odors to help eliminate them as quickly as possible:

When you smell the odor, make note of the date and time, as well as your location when you smell it. Then when you are able, go to the county’s “Cannabis Complaint Form” website: tinyurl.com/carp-odor.

Answer the questions there, leaving blank any information you don’t know (such as the address, etc. of the property you are reporting). Note that this form covers odor plus other issues, but don’t worry about that—just enter the odor-related information.

How often should you file a separate report? Once a day? Once every five minutes if the odor persists? The answer from the county is that once a day is sufficient, or maybe separate reports for a.m. and p.m. if they are “separate” odor events.

It is true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. A skunk-odor-free future is possible if we help by reporting odors to the county.

That is a much better solution than not breathing.

Mike Wondolowski is president of the Carpinteria Valley Association (CarpinteriaValleyAssociation.org), a local organization dedicated to maintaining the small beach town nature of our community. In his 30 years of involvement in planning issues, he has witnessed visionary successes, as well as decisions that were later widely regretted. When not stuck indoors, he can often be found enjoying Carpinteria’s treasures including kayaking and snorkeling along the coast, running or hiking on the bluffs or the Franklin Trail, or “vacationing” as a tent camper at the State Beach.

(1) comment


"Something to think about: starting this fall there will not be any students at Carpinteria High School who know what it is like to be in high school without the cannabis odor throughout the school."

Something to think about: That is a total and complete fabrication! Anyone who wants to challenge me on that, meet me at the High School parking lot and explain to me what it is you are complaining about. Our High School is an open campus when school is not in session, the Public can use the tennis courts. Walk around campus and tell me what you smell. The High School and the School District have not participated in the recent County hearings on Cannabis because there is no longer an odor issue and there has not been for over a year.

"Fake News" of the worst kind because it denigrates our wonderful High School and is a lie.

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