Solvang Man Says Sons’ Health Pushed Him into Medical Cannabis Industry


Steve Decker’s sons’ mental health problems led the real estate broker into the medical cannabis business now at the heart of a debate in Solvang.

“It’s serious enough to require medication, but so many of the pharmaceutical solutions don’t work,” he said of his sons’ anxiety and depression and help cannabis provided them.

An application filed Oct. 31 by the Steven Corl Decker Revocable Living Trust for Santa Barbara Cannabis LLC seeks to add a production operation on 5.2 acres at 988 Fresdenborg Canyon Road, just outside Solvang’s city limits.

“Our focus is to grow strains that can be used for medical conditions,” said Decker, owner/broker of NextHome Preferred Properties.

His proposal has sparked concerns among neighbors worried about traffic, access, crime, noise, lighting and more. At the urging of neighbors, the Solvang City Council adopted a resolution opposing the project.

Decker’s property once housed a horse farm, so old stalls and other small buildings will be removed to make way for 15,648 square feet of growing facilities, including eight greenhouses plus a headhouse work center.

“It’s a real science to grow this stuff successfully,” said Decker, who moved from Montecito to Solvang in 2006, and has legally grown a small amount of medical marijuana at the site since 2008.

“Cannabis is not actually an easy crop or an easy plant to grow successfully to have it be the highest quality.”

To oversee his product, Decker said, he has lined up someone with a master’s degree in pharmacology from Oxford University to lead the extraction department, since various combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes have different effects on medical conditions.

“The science of it is going to be very important as to what we do and what we produce,” Decker said.

His medical marijuana will be sold under the Santa Barbara Cannabis LLC brand, using a registered trademark showing palms trees against a sunset with a white marijuana leaf displayed prominently.

“The picture represents what a lot of people around the world consider to be Santa Barbara, the palm trees and the beautiful sky and so forth,” Decker said. “The white leaf speaks more to our interest in quality and the medical side of what we’re doing.”

Specifically, his plan calls for eight fully enclosed greenhouses, standing 16 feet at the tallest point, while the headhouse where collecting, drying, and processing will occur will be 20 feet high. He intends to use state-of-the-art growing equipment.

Addressing some of the neighbors’ concerns, Decker said the facilities will include odor control devices and light deprivation curtains. Security lights and cameras would be motion activated.

He said he does not intend to keep cash at the site, adding that the valuable products such as oils and flowers would be further locked in a vault and not readily accessed.

The growing operation would have a maximum of 15 employees, with nine living on site, Decker said, adding that it would allow at least three people to stop commuting to jobs in the Santa Barbara area.

His contends that his business would be among the smaller cannabis operations.

“We will not be sending semi-trailer trucks of produce out of here. It’s a couple pickup trucks a month,” Decker said.

Under county regulations, staff will decide — likely in February — whether to issue the permit, but the decision can be appealed to the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission and ultimately the Board of Supervisors.

Neighbor Jeff Jacobsen, who is leading the opposition, told Solvang council members some 220 residential parcels sit within three-quarters of a mile of Decker’s property. He also cited the county cannabis ordinance for why neighbors think the permit should be denied.

“The county’s own ordinance states their intent was to protect neighborhood character and minimize potential for negative impacts on people, communities and the environment,” Jacobsen said on Dec. 10.

But Decker said the property in rural Solvang is zoned for agricultural use, where Santa Barbara County regulations say cannabis companies can operate.

“Although people around me may feel it’s a residential zone, it really is an agricultural zone,” Decker added.

Unhappy with the City Council’s opposition, Decker said he intended to show up at the Jan. 14 meeting to ask for reconsideration.



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