On July 29 detectives with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Cannabis Compliance Team executed a search warrant in the Tepusquet area on a cannabis growing operation.
According to a press release, the team, with the assistance of Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens and Campaign Against Marijuana Planting agents, conducted the search in an area between Pine Canyon and Highway 166.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
UNLICENSED GROW The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant in the Tepusquet area, locating approximately 4,000 unlicensed and untagged cannabis plants and approximately 200 pounds of dried product.
The warrant was related to an unlicensed outdoor cannabis operation, which was discovered while reviewing past reports and current active cannabis licenses in the county, the press release states.
During the search, detectives located approximately 4,000 unlicensed and untagged cannabis plants and approximately 200 pounds of dried product.
The press release states that without a license or Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance tags, the cannabis produced at the operation would have likely entered the illicit market, undercutting the licensed operators within the county and state.
The investigation remains ongoing.
Tepusquet Canyon falls under the county’s newest cannabis regulation
banning cannabis cultivation in existing developed rural neighborhoods, referred to as EDRNs. The other prohibited area includes Cebada Canyon near Lompoc.
Illegal cannabis grows have occurred in the Tepusquet area for as long as Santa Barbara County 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino has been on the board. He said the area is sought after by cannabis growers because of the climate and the ability to hide their growing operations.
“I did not support the ban. Whether or not I would have found a project that I supported up in that area, I don’t know because the applicants never really got a hearing,” Lavagnino said.
He said the applicants, county, and community would have benefitted from going through the application process to “lay the facts on the table” and find a project size that the community could agree on with the necessary restrictions and permit requirements.
“What really bothers me is that for two years we’ve allowed these applicants to spend money, chasing a permit that at the end of the day the rug was pulled out from beneath them,” Lavagnino said.
He said the bottom line is the county’s enforcement team will continue to be busy in Tepusquet.
“They were before we had the cannabis ordinance. They will be after we had the ban on cannabis just because historically it’s been a remote area, and people that want to participate in the black market, that’s probably a place they’re looking at,” Lavagnino said. ∆