Wine growers complain that the smell of marijuana stinks and that they have had to use less effective pesticides
The war between marijuana growers and wine growers has effectively broken out in one of California’s famous wine regions where cannabis farms now thrive.
In reality, the problem began after the legalization of recreational marijuana in November 2016. The conflict began in Santa Barbara County, specifically in the city of Carpintería, where residents claim that marijuana stinks and threatens their livelihood and way of living.
Stephen Janes, general manager of Pence Vineyards, located in the hills of Santa Rita, says marijuana is the biggest threat to the wine industry he has seen in more than two decades.
In a very short period of time millions of cannabis plants have been planted with flowers that give off an intense smell in the valleys of Santa Ynez and Santa María, a large wine area.
The real problem is the great expansion that the cannabis market in the county has experienced in the last two years as a result of the excess of local cultivation licenses that have brought too many growers who want to benefit from a very lucrative cultivation.
In the south, the greenhouses that cultivated aromatic flowers and that were located near residential areas have been converted to grow marijuana, which has been a cause for anger for some residents who dislike the strong penetrating smell that cannabis gives off.
A resident who has lived 3 decades in the area says he now has to wear a mask when he goes out to his garden and his grandchildren no longer visit him because the smell seems unbearable.
In the Santa Rita Hills area, where Pinot Noir wine has always been produced and which is less than two hours north of Los Angeles, plastic greenhouses for cannabis cultivation extend as far as the eye can see.
One of the problems is that nobody had foreseen the enormous visual impact that marijuana greenhouses have on the landscape of the area. It is a sea of plastic.
Kathy Joseph, owner of Fiddlehead Cellars and Fiddlestix Vineyard, says that the cultivation of marijuana is not like any agricultural neighbor they have had, and that all this happens very fast. The truth is that nobody thought about the visual impact. No one in the area had experienced cannabis in so much.
On the other hand, wine growers and other farmers say they have to adapt their farming practices by using organic pesticides that are less effective than conventional ones, to prevent cannabis growers from demanding to contaminate their crops.
Wine growers are afraid that the interaction of both crops will be harmful. This has happened to a wine grower named Jane, whose neighbor has filed a complaint against her for fear that the pesticides she uses in her vineyards may have contaminated her cannabis.
Jane has been growing wine for 40 years under strict controls. And yet he believes that this year he will lose his Chardonnay crop, estimated at $ 50,000, because he had to switch to a pesticide that was not so effective in fighting mold.
The Board of Supervisors of Santa Barbara County, which regulates everything related to cannabis, recognizes that it should have imagined the indirect consequences of marijuana farms in agriculture and residents already living in the area. Joan Hartmann, a member of the Board, claims to be very concerned about the impact that cannabis cultivation is having on the outside in the Santa Ynez Valley and claims to be doing everything possible to protect the existing vineyards and agricultural operations from the negative impacts of the marijuana industry.
Joan Hartman says the county had limited cannabis cultivation in the region to less than 2000 acres (800 hectares) and that they are currently studying the best way to resolve the conflict. On the other hand, Graham Farrar, CEO of Glass House Farms in Carpinteria and president of the Local Cannabis Association for Responsible Producers, states that marijuana growers do everything possible to be good neighbors, installing odor control systems and paying a lot of money in taxes that are very necessary in the community.
Graham Farrar believes that the community supports the cultivation of cannabis and that the people of the street are not bothered by the smell given off by plants that, on the other hand, is not excessive. His opinion is that people who complain about the smell is because they are actually morally against marijuana.
But wine growers disagree. The wine industry has been operating in California for over 40 years and contributes 1.8 billion dollars a year to the local economy.
Wine growers claim that they are not opposed to marijuana, but that they require more stringent controls to prevent the smell of cannabis from competing with the aroma of wine in the tasting rooms. But the reality is that some winemakers are already packing their bags and moving to their families in the area.
The conflict between marijuana growers and wine growers has confronted the neighbors and even some have lost their friends for this.