Smells like skunk… Carpinteria greenhouses turn to pot

Written by

If you drive down Foothill Road in the small, Central Coast city of Carpinteria at certain times of the day, when the wind is blowing in a particular direction, you may get a big whiff of marijuana.

“I have guests that come for the weekend and they tell me I have a skunk under my house. My granddaughter doesn’t want to come because Nana’s house smells,” said Sandy Kuttler. She’s lived in Carpinteria for 38 years, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that she started to notice the smell.

There are times, said Kuttler, when it’s like getting sprayed by a skunk. It gives her headaches and wakes her up at night, even when the windows are closed.

Carpinteria was once known as the flower growing capital of the country. But now, many of the greenhouses that once grew Gerber Daisies and Orchids are filled with marijuana plants. And as residents living near those greenhouses have found, flowering marijuana plants do not smell like roses.

Carpinteria residents Sandy Kuttler and Sally Eagle look out at dozens of greenhouses from Kuttler's deck. The smell of marijuana gives them headaches, but it's hard to pinpoint which greenhouses are the culprit. (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)

Kuttler’s house looks out on over a dozen greenhouses – and that’s the problem. In order to make a formal complaint to the county about the smell, she needs to provide a physical address. But, it’s hard to tell where the smell is coming from.

“We get complaints a lot, but we don’t very often get complaints that include addresses,” said Santa Barbara County Supervisor Das Williams, who equates it to reporting a burglary, but not saying where it happened. “We need an address in order to do enforcement.”

Even if county officials knew exactly which greenhouse caused which annoying smell, it’s not clear they could do anything about it. That’s because the county has no permitting structure for cannabis operations. In other words, said Williams, there are no regulations in place to make sure pot growers are being good neighbors.

5 Things To Do Newsletter

The best of what to see, hear, eat, do, and more.

Upcoming Events

View All