Santa Barbara’s Legal Marijuana Poster Boy Caught Red-Handed

On Jan. 22, detectives with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department raided a farm in Arroyo Verde. They found an illegal extraction lab, 20 pounds of illegally stored pot, and over 100 gallons of illicit cannabis oil—all part of black market operation run by a man named Barry Brand.

Brand was familiar to county authorities, but not for the reasons you might think.

The Brands were pioneers of the cut flower trade in Carpinteria and, when Barry began growing marijuana, he did it with the government’s consent.

“They were considered to be sort of the models,” the county’s cannabis czar Bernard Melekian told the Los Angeles Times.

Santa Barbara County officials even encouraged the media to visit Brand’s farm on Foothill Road—which the Los Angeles Times did—to see legal cultivation done right.

“I realize there is a certain irony there,” Melekian now admits.

For Santa Barbara residents who have opposed the county’s liberal stance on marijuana, the Brand saga is a big, fat “I told you so.”

Brand and other politically influential cultivators were deeply involved in crafting the county’s cannabis policy, which has since sparked a local backlash. There are grows as far as the eye can see and the revenue does not match up with the number of plants officials know are there. They hope Brand’s fall will be a wakeup call and a sign that not everything may be as it seems.


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