Pitch for story to publish December 2019

By Ed Murrieta

LOMPOC, Calif. — Founded in 1888 as a temperance colony, this bucolic bedroom community of 40,000 people, two federal penitentiaries and a U.S. Air Force missile launch base three hours north of Los Angeles is an oasis of agriculture, viticulture and tourism popularized by a Hollywood movie about wine and is the most cannabis-friendly city in Santa Barbara County, the home to the second-largest concentration of cannabis cultivation licenses in America after world-famous Humboldt. 

In and around Lompoc — rhymes with somm toke — grapes and cannabis flood the terra, from the gracefully transversing hills on the Pacific-kissed central coast where vineyards of pinot noir and hoop houses of primo pot grow side by side to the quaint downtown streets where half a dozen cannabis stores and Santa Barbara County’s first consumption lounge have opened this year near a cluster of more than 20 wineries and tasting rooms branded The Lompoc Wine Ghetto. 

Can these two intoxicating crops and lifestyles indulgences coexist and revive a local economy wilted by a global flower market and scuttled space shuttles? 

While cannabis cultivation odors are causing a stink elsewhere on the West Coast’s wine-and-weed landscape — in Oregon, a federal judge recently ruled a grape grower may sue a cannabis grower for allegedly tainting and devaluing its crops — Santa Barbara County cannabis farmers are working with farmers of grapes, flowers and vegetables to be good ag neighbors while attracting and serving overlapping clientele with discretionary incomes and tastes for local products and unique experiences. 

Neighborly aroma-remediation efforts in Santa Barbara County include growing cannabis strains that smell more like fruit and less like skunk; freezing freshly harvested flowers so they don’t emit aromas that occur during traditional drying processes; and, like vintners do with grapes, adding value and creating artisanal products that showcase local crops — in this case, live resin cannabis oil concentrates, premium pot’s equivalent of fine wine.

Three cannabis stores opened in Lompoc before the first cannabis store opened in Santa Barbara, the county’s seat and largest city. Meanwhile, eight more cannabis stores are licensed and on the way in Lompoc, along with more consumption lounges that will offer buy-and-try retailing vs. wine rooms’ try-and-buy tastings.  

Restaurants have opened. 

Food trucks have arrived. 

Lompoc’s mayor wants to create a cannabis district with a Wine Ghetto presence.

A summertime event is taking root to celebrate local agriculture, from sweet pea seeds to alyssum and delphinium flowers to broccoli and berries to grapes and cannabis. 

This former flower seed capital of the world that was founded on an anti-intoxication ethos awaits its “Sideways” cannabis moment, a tokable toast that’ll heighten the stature of Santa Barbara County weed like the buddy-movie oeno ode elevated Santa Barbara County wine 15 years ago.