Carpinteria’s Marijuana Rift Ensnares Local School Board

Since Santa Barbara County welcomed commercial cannabis cultivation en masse, the town of Carpinteria has been divided. Concerns overs odors and impacts on traditional farming have dominated the local discussion, with residents and some city officials expressing outrage about the sheer number of pot farms in their midst. 

Lately, the debate has ensnared the Carpinteria Unified School Board. Case in point: a $189,000 donation from local cannabis growers association, CARP Growers. The generous gift — not the only one of its kind — will allow the school district to hire more mental health professionals. But critics see only an industry effort to spread the tentacles of influence.

Underscoring the rift was a recent photo in the local Coastal View News showing Carpinteria Unified School District Superintendent Diana Rigby and several other school officials standing in a field of marijuana plants. The image, which accompanied an adulatory story about the recent donation, sparked a backlash.

“The appalling poor judgment necessary for educators in a district leadership role to jointly agree to such a promotional stunt is unlike anything any of us has ever witnessed,” one resident, Lionel Neff, said at a school board meeting

Carpinteria residents have long complained about the pot industry’s clout with county officials. They’re disappointed to see it extend to the schools.

They say the growers are buying silence and inaction from the school district and county supervisors, who have the power to require pot farms to relocate farther from homes and schools and seal their facilities. “We see the extreme proliferation of cannabis in Carpinteria, very high concentration of cannabis farms around schools and homes,” Gregory Gandrud, an accountant and former City Council member, told the school board after the photo was published. “There’s a very corrupting influence with the money.” 

A former school board member, Foley Claffey, had also weighed in. She says the industry has “co-opted the school district.”

“These are multinational interests behind these grows. They don’t care about residents and students,” she adds.

Not everyone has such a negative view. Parent Jaime Diamond is just happy to see a company with means doing its part to support local schools.

“A picture is not going to send students flocking to dispensaries or drug dealers as some may have you believe.”

Read more at the Los Angeles Times



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