By Tamara Rowles
The Buellton City Council intends to amend its ban on all commercial cannabis activities to allow cannabis-testing laboratories to operate within the city, according to discussions on Aug. 8.
At the same meeting, the council considered but decided against amending the municipal code to allow for the sale of cannabis-derived cannabidiol (CBD) products at retail stores in Buellton. CBD is the non-psychoactive component of marijuana.
The council revisited Municipal Code 19.20, zoning provisions adopted in July 2018, which prohibit all commercial cannabis facilities and cultivation within the city.
Currently there are only two exceptions to the prohibition. First, state-licensed retailers that are located outside the city may deliver products that comply with California state laws to Buellton residents. Second, Buellton residents may cultivate up to six cannabis plants as long as the cultivation complies with applicable health and safety codes and does not use gas products such as butane for cultivation.
In considering whether to create another exception to the existing code to allow for the operation of laboratories to test marijuana plants and cannabidiol products to ensure these products’ compliance with California State laws, the council weighed their concerns for allowing new cannabis-related activities along with the possible benefit of job creation.
“I was approached by a group that was interested in Buellton because we are so close to so many crops, Santa Rosa Road in particular,” said Mayor Holly Sierra. “The state licensing is very strict. You have to be a licensed chemist to work in the facility, which I thought would bring some nice paying jobs into our community. What I understand is they are given direction by the state, they go to this grower, they’re looking for this plant, they clip two to three leaves off the plant, put it in a baggie, take it to a lab, test it for chemicals for sprays, for things that aren’t supposed to be on it. They print the results.
“They return the baggie back to the grower. What they keep in these labs is minimal and under tight security. The state has a lot of stringent laws. I thought the council should talk about it. What can we allow and what don’t we want to allow?”
Addressing a concern for public safety, City Manager Scott Wolfe noted, “If a person holds a license to operate a cannabis testing and analysis laboratory, they cannot hold any other type of retail or commercial cannabis license. That ensures the separation between the cannabis producers and the cannabis analysis.”
The Council agreed to direct its staff to perform additional research and draft an ordinance to allow cannabis testing and analysis laboratories within city limits. Sierra noted the draft ordinance should have “very strict wording” and will be considered and voted on at a future meeting.
The Council decided not to allow for sales of CBD products within Buellton City limits. The retail market for CBD products is expected to hit $22 billion in 2022.
Wolfe explained there are two types of products that contain CBD, hemp-derived and cannabis-derived. There is also a difference under state regulations between food and non-food products that contain CBD.
Hemp-derived CBD products that are not food, such as lotions and oils, can be sold in California retail stores without having to go through the cannabis licensing process. These products are currently sold in Buellton and are not prohibited by the current City Code.
Hemp-derived food products are prohibited under state law because Proposition 64, adopted by California voters in November 2016, specifically excluded hemp and hemp-derived products. However, California is poised to pass Assembly Bill 228, which would allow hemp-derived food products within the state, with some labeling and other restrictions.
The second type of CBD products are cannabis-derived products. These products were legalized under Prop. 64 but can be sold only under a retail cannabis license. Buellton City Code prohibits the sale of all cannabis-derived products, food and non-food alike.
Jamie Dietenhofer, president and co-founder of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, asked the council for direction as he is considering creating a new line of CBD seltzer water, which would be manufactured at his Buellton facility.
“We have an opportunity to make a CBD seltzer from 100 percent hemp, so it’s hemp derived. We’re not looking to do retail sales of that here, just package and manufacture. So I’m trying to seek direction from Council and the City Attorney and City Manager if that’s something we do proceed with.
“There are many costly steps that we have to go through from a food standpoint to make that available. So we want to see before we make that investment if that is something allowable from Buellton, to package a hemp derived seltzer,” Dietenhofer said.
Wolfe noted that because the product line would be hemp-derived food product, Dietenhofer would first need to see what happens with AB 228, which will determine whether hemp-derived food products will be allowed within California. The Buellton Municipal Code is limited to cannabis-derived products and would not apply to Dietenhofer’s intended line of hemp-derived CBD seltzer products.
With no further public comment, the council unanimously decided not to create another exception to allow sale of cannabis-derived CBD products within Buellton City limits at this time.
In other business, the council considered a draft document that provides the purpose, parameters, and membership of the proposed Buellton Arts & Culture Committee. Council Member John Sanchez as well as Buellton Rec Supervisor Kyle Abello are poised to be on the committee.
Council Member David King expressed his concern that the members of the committee were not required to be Buellton residents but could hail from the greater Santa Ynez Valley.
“To me, if we’re going to use taxpayer money, all of the people on the committee should be Buellton residents, King said.
Sanchez countered that the City Council would still vote on the recommendations for the benefit of Buellton but he did not want to limit volunteer membership on the committee if there is somebody with talent in this area who can offer a contribution.
Sierra noted that the dog park in Buellton has board members who are not Buellton residents and people from all over the valley use the dog park, just as people from the greater Santa Ynez Valley would benefit from the projects the committee proposes.
The council then voted to give the Arts and Culture Committee $50,000 so that it could propose specific projects to the council. The council noted the committee should not feel obligated to propose spending the entire budget within the year. The proposed projects would still need to be approved by the council before these funds are spent.
The council also recognized Boy Scout Troop 42 for its service to Buellton. Troop 42 put up 50 state flags along the Avenue of Flags for Flag Day on June 14 under the direction of Scoutmaster John DeLeon. Several of its members also completed their Eagle Scout projects, which benefited the Buellton community.
For more information, call Buellton City Hall at 805-688-5177 or visit www.cityofbuellton.com.