Santa Barbara County Cannabis – Is It Legal & Where To Buy 2024

Is Cannabis Cultivation Legal in Santa Barbara County?

Yes. Medical cannabis and recreational cannabis cultivation are legal in Santa Barbara County, California. California legalized medical marijuana through the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) in 1996. Under this voter-approved Act, adults 18 years or older and minors (under certain conditions) diagnosed with severe medical conditions are eligible for medical marijuana. Proposition 64, commonly called the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 years and older in 2016. The Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MAUCRSA) is the state's general cannabis law. It permits cities and counties to decide whether to allow commercial cannabis operations within their jurisdictions. The California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) regulates all cannabis activities in the state.

Chapter 50 of the Santa Barbara County Code (Cannabis Business Licensing Ordinance) authorizes the commercial cultivation of medical cannabis and recreational cannabis in the unincorporated part of Santa Barbara. Anyone interested in commercial cannabis cultivation in the county must obtain a cultivation license.

Commercial cannabis cultivators must obtain land use entitlement/permit from the Santa Barbara Planning and Development Department. Section 50-7(a)(1) of the county Code prohibits commercial cannabis cultivators from operating outdoors in a coastal zone. Also, outdoor cultivation areas cannot be situated within two miles of the city boundary or urban-rural boundary of a coastal zone. Commercial cultivators cannot grow cannabis on more than 1,575 acres of land within the unincorporated parts of Santa Barbara County outside the Carpinteria Agricultural Overlay District.

Also, Section 50-5 of the Santa Barbara County Code exempts personal-use cannabis cultivators from licensing. Therefore, in the unincorporated parts of Santa Barbara, adults 21 years or older can cultivate cannabis at home for personal medical and recreational uses without fear of legal repercussions. Eligible individuals can grow a maximum of six personal-use cannabis plants without licenses, and the cultivation area must be secure and within an enclosed space.

Is Cannabis Manufacturing Legal in Santa Barbara County?

Cannabis manufacturing is legal in Santa Barbara County. Chapter 50 of the Santa Barbara County Code permits commercial cannabis manufacturers to operate within unincorporated areas of the county. However, they must obtain cannabis manufacturing licenses from the county.

The Santa Barbara County Code requires that cannabis manufacturers use renewable energy on their premises. Therefore, commercial cannabis manufacturers in Santa Barbara County must submit their energy conservation plans to the County Executive Officer for approval. Also, the Fire Department must inspect their operation sites to ensure they comply with state and county fire safety guidelines. The Public Health Department also inspects cannabis manufacturing facilities to ensure they meet state and county requirements, including quality control, inventory, operations, and waste management. If the facility manufactures edibles, the Health Department will assess their product storage conditions.

Is Cannabis Retail Legal in Santa Barbara County?

Yes. Santa Barbara County allows the operation of cannabis retail dispensaries in its unincorporated areas. According to Section 50-2(s) of the Santa Barbara County Code, retail cannabis business operations include storefront and non-storefront dispensing of cannabis products. Hence, cannabis dispensaries in the county can operate as delivery-only stores, sell cannabis products to customers at the dispensary, or both. Cannabis products available at dispensaries include edibles, concentrates, and topicals. Adults 21 years and older can buy any of these products for medical or recreational uses. Similarly, patients with medical marijuana cards who are at least 18 years and primary caregivers can purchase medical cannabis products in Santa Barbara County.

The Santa Barbara County Code requires persons interested in selling marijuana or marijuana products to obtain cannabis retail operation permits. Section 50-7(b) of the county's Code stipulates that the maximum number of retail storefront operation permits Santa Barbara County can have at a time is eight. In Santa Barbara County, a cannabis retail employee must be at least 18 years for medical marijuana and 21 years for recreational marijuana. Cannabis dispensaries must comply with all state and county regulations regarding their operations. The Public Health Department must inspect cannabis dispensaries' storage conditions for edibles and their waste management, inventory, and quality control procedures. Also, the Santa Barbara Fire Department must check retail operators' compliance with state and county fire safety guidelines.

Is Cannabis Delivery Legal in Santa Barbara County?

Cannabis delivery is legal in Santa Barbara County. The Santa Barbara County Code provisions allow licensed retail operators to deliver cannabis and cannabis products to county residents. However, they can only deliver recreational marijuana to persons 21 years and above. Also, cannabis retailers can deliver medical marijuana to qualified patients 18 years and older and caregivers who have medical marijuana cards. In Santa Barbara County, a cannabis delivery employee must be at least 18 years for medical marijuana and 21 years for recreational cannabis.

How to Get Medical Marijuana Card in Santa Barbara County

In Santa Barbara, a medical marijuana card is used to identify medical marijuana patients who are registered under California's Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program (MMICP). To obtain a medical marijuana card in Santa Barbara, a person must be diagnosed with a severe medical condition such as AIDS, cancer, cachexia, muscle spasms, arthritis, anorexia, migraine, seizures, or glaucoma. Applicants need to provide the following:

  • A completed Medical Marijuana Program Application/Renewal Form (CDPH 9042)
  • Valid government-issued photo ID such as a driver's license
  • Proof of residency in Santa Barbara County using any of the following documents bearing the applicant's name and current address:
  • A recent utility bill (e.g., gas, electric, water)
  • Current rent or mortgage receipt
  • Current vehicle registration issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
  • A written document from a licensed physician confirming that the applicant suffers from a severe medical condition and recommending medical marijuana for them
  • A Medical Marijuana Identification Card Program Doctor Attestation Form, completed by the applicant's doctor
  • Non-refundable application fee of $21 for patients under MediCal insurance and $42 for other applicants

Persons interested in obtaining medical marijuana cards in Santa Barbara County must submit all the required documents and application fee in person at:

Public Health Department

Office of Vital Records

345 Camino del Remedio

3rd Floor, Building 4, Room 320

Santa Barbara, CA 93110

An applicant must call the Santa Barbara Public Health Department at 1 (805) 681-5151 or 1 (805) 681-5150 to schedule an appointment. The Department answers booking calls between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. or 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. As a part of the application, the applicant's photograph must be captured physically (no sunglasses, hats, or bandanas), which is why they must apply in person. The Department typically processes applications within 30 days and contacts successful applicants to pick up their cards.

How Has Cannabis Legalization Impacted the Economy of Santa Barbara County?

According to a cannabis taxable sales report by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA), Santa Barbara County recorded about $9.1 million as total taxable sales in 2018. This figure increased significantly in 2019 to $20.3 million. By the end of 2020, Santa Barbara's cannabis total taxable sales amount was $51.7 million, more than two times the previous year's figure. Between the first quarter and the third quarter of 2021, the cannabis taxable sales totaled $49.4 million, which was almost $10 million higher than what was reported for the same period in 2020. Santa Barbara's cannabis sales trend between 2018 and 2021 indicates a positive impact of cannabis on its economy.

The Effects of Cannabis Legalization on Crime Rates in Santa Barbara County?

According to the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) reports generated from Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office, 151 DUI (Driving Under the Influence) arrests were made in 2017. This figure came down to 108 in 2018, the year California's recreational cannabis sales began. By 2019, DUI arrests made in Santa Barbara declined further to 85. However, in 2020, the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office recorded a higher number of DUI arrests (116) when compared with the previous year.

Also, the Sheriff's Office made 123 cannabis possession arrests and 10 manufacturing and sales arrests in 2017. In 2018 the number of marijuana possession arrests went up to 217, while manufacturing and sales arrests dropped to 7. In 2019, marijuana possession arrest figures reduced slightly to 200 arrests, while the number of cannabis sales and manufacturing arrests increased to 10. Cannabis-related possession arrests dropped in 2020 to 70, while there were 6 cannabis sales and manufacturing arrests that year. These data suggest that cannabis legalization does not have any significant impact on Santa Barbara County's crime rates.

In this section:
Santa Barbara County Cannabis Overview