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largest indoor marijuana grow

Lavagnino has said repeatedly that the county’s goal was to bring an illicit industry into the light and make it pay taxes. The supervisors drafted a tax measure that voters passed requiring growers to pay 4% of their gross receipts to the county.

Sharyne Merritt, who has 13 acres of avocados, says even the organic spray she normally uses is banned for cannabis and the only acceptable one “is completely ineffective.”

The cannabis boom has caused a backlash from residents and vintners afflicted by the smell, and farmers who worry that spraying their avocados could make them financially liable for tainting multimillion-dollar marijuana crops. Fearing for their businesses and quality of life, they have organized into activist groups, hired attorneys, filed lawsuits and zoning appeals.

The supervisors rejected a measure recommended by the planning commission to have staff ask for documentation and research the veracity of the statements.

Stefanie Keenan said the rush to plant caused a surge in land values that has kept potential small growers like her and her husband out of the market. “They’re charging $10,000 an acre a month to grow marijuana,” said Keenan, who lives in Buellton. She urged the supervisors to start with a pilot program of local growers that would have less of an impact in communities. “You could have eased people in. But this is so in your face.”

The state licensing authority was suddenly deluged with applications for sites in Santa Barbara County — many filed by companies from Northern California and Los Angeles. All claimed they had been growing in Santa Barbara since January 2016.

Proposition 64 stipulated that large-scale grows not be licensed until 2023 to give small, local operators a chance to establish themselves before big corporate interests entered the market. State agriculture officials issued licenses for small grows of 10,000 square feet or less of planting space and medium licenses for up to an acre. But they allowed a loophole: Growers could stack as many of the small licenses as they wanted, leaving it to local jurisdictions to set limits.

In the Santa Ynez and Santa Maria valleys, the smell of pot can overwhelm the wine tasting rooms downwind of grows, while vast rows of polythene hoop houses have become eyesores on the pastoral landscape, threatening the tourism-dependent economy of one of the nation’s top viticulture zones, famous to non-connoisseurs as the setting of the 2004 movie “Sideways.”

Williams said the revenue from the cannabis tax allowed the county to create a sheriff’s enforcement team that began eradicating illegal grows in August. “Thirty-five raids in a small county is a lot,” he said.

Largest indoor marijuana grow

Many of the challenges of large-scale cannabis production can be solved by drawing on the experience of the commercial greenhouse industry, says Zheng. Growing crops commercially requires a homogenous soil and consistent irrigation. Small variations can mean that parts of the crop dry out at different rates, which leads to the spread of pathogenic agents and root rot, and to an inconsistent product. But the tomato industry, for example, has experience of growing tens to hundreds of hectares of produce at a time, and that expertise can be transferred easily to cannabis growers, says Zheng.

Brian Owens is a freelance journalist in St Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada.

Testing, testing

Zheng’s laboratory is one of many that are working with cannabis producers to support and guide this effort. He is studying how the amount and wavelength of light used in growing can affect the plant’s cannabinoid composition. Increasing the amount of ultraviolet light, for example, can increase levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of cannabis. “We want to create a lighting recipe which will help producers get a consistent product,” he says.

Although many small-scale cannabis growers at first questioned the need for intensive product testing, most can now appreciate the benefits that the rules bring to the market. “People see the need for quality control and testing,” says James. “It brings a legitimacy to the industry that hasn’t always been there.”