California town grapples with blossoming pot industry’s smell trichomoniasis discharge

Residents say a thick, skunk-like odor from the marijuana plants settles over the valley in the evenings and before dawn. To keep out the smell, they have tried stuffing pillows under doors, lighting incense and shutting windows, a reluctant choice since it also keeps out the cool ocean breezes that are part of the town’s allure.

The county amassed the largest number of marijuana cultivation licenses in California since broad legalization arrived on Jan. 1 — about 800, according to state data compiled by the Associated Press. Two-thirds of them are in Carpinteria and Lompoc, a larger agricultural city about an hour’s drive to the northwest.

The result is a large number of licenses but small total acreage. Only about 200 acres of the county’s farmland is devoted to marijuana, compared with tens of thousands sown with strawberries and vegetables, said Dennis Bozanich, who oversees the county’s marijuana planning.


The area’s greenhouses have their roots in Carpinteria’s cut flower industry, which was sapped after the U.S. government granted trade preferences to South American countries in the 1990s to encourage their farmers to grow flowers instead of coca, the plant used to make cocaine.

In an ironic twist, some California flower growers weary of import competition have started trying to grow cannabis, a plant that, like coca, is deemed illicit by the federal government. Others have sold their greenhouses to marijuana investors.

“We have literally no carnation production in the United States any longer because South America grows them so cheaply,” said Kasey Cronquist, chief executive of the California Cut Flower Commission. “Farmers had to move crops, and that is what we have seen happen over time — they’ve gone to crops that are more valuable or more difficult for Ecuador and Colombia to ship.”

Domestic cut flower growers saw their share of the U.S. market drop to 27 percent in 2015 from 58 percent in 1991. Sales of imported cut flowers grew to more than $1 billion during the same period, according to data compiled by the commission.

Greenhouses that once produced flowers are seen as ideal for marijuana. In Carpinteria’s climate, the greenhouses heat and cool easily and inexpensively, and the plants thrive. It takes only about three months to grow cannabis in pots of shredded coconut husks, so farmers can get multiple harvests each year.

Some farmers see cannabis as a plant that can help preserve the area’s farming culture, said Mollie Culver, a consultant for the Cannabis Business Council of Santa Barbara County. Many growers live locally and welcomed the county’s recently crafted regulations requiring odor abatement, she said.

The county passed rules in February requiring growers to submit odor abatement plans and designate a representative to handle complaints. They are expected to take effect in some county areas this year and in Carpinteria following a review by state coastal regulators.

“We have a lot of people who are interested in being compliant and getting into the regulated market,” Bozanich said. “If we can continue that kind of relationship where they’re going to stay in the regulated market,” it will be easier to target and eliminate black market growers, he said.