Post Post-Truth

By Gwyn Lurie   |   March 17, 2021

If we’ve learned anything from the “post-truth” era in which we find ourselves, it’s that substantiated facts are critical to productive public discourse. Allegations and aspersions must be legitimately corroborated. This is the only way to emerge into what will hopefully become a post post-truth era.

Across our nation there remain countless fires still smoldering from the post-truth era including some still questioning the Georgia vote and even the legitimacy of Biden’s election; and then there’s the curious case of Andrew Cuomo. Should New Yorkers give their governor the boot or give him another Emmy?

How about we find out the facts and then decide.

Speaking of which, you may have heard about the hot-off-the-presses story in Los Angeles Magazine titled, “In Sleepy Santa Barbara, a City Hall Insider is Raising Eyebrows.” While I hardly think of Santa Barbara as “sleepy,” the piece tells a colorful story that packs a punch, raising critical questions about the efficacy of our local cannabis licensing process as well as casting aspersions on Santa Barbara’s mayor, its former police chief, its city manager and, in the leading role, Anthony Wagner, a man cherry picked from San Diego by Santa Barbara’s former police chief, to serve as her deputy, despite not having relevant law-enforcement credentials.

The story, involving serious allegations of shady dealings and corruption by local city officials, as well as some questionable City ordinances around the processing of cannabis dispensary licenses that potentially paved the road for malfeasance, is a familiar one. Literally.

The story was brought to the Montecito Journal eight months ago by one of our freelance reporters, who was living abroad. In trying to get to the bottom of it, the Journal pursued journalistic due diligence by requesting public documents through the Freedom of Information Act and through additional reporting that included an interview by MJ writer Nick Schou with David McFarland, the owner of Santa Barbara Care Center, a medical cannabis dispensary in Goleta.

Ultimately, we ceased working on this story for a multitude of reasons including differing views on the standards that must be met in the reporting of such a story, and the need for documentation on many of the allegations as well as interviews with and responses from those who were being investigated. Last week, the story ran in Los Angeles Magazine in much the same form we left it when we concluded that its unvetted content would not meet our standards.

That doesn’t mean we are done reporting on our local cannabis industry. As with the addition of regulations to any previously unregulated industry, the legalization of cannabis and local government’s involvement in permit issuance opens the door to possible conflicts of interest and the potential for corruption… which is likely why in California it is rare for a city to run its own marijuana-growers and dispensary approval process – which Santa Barbara in fact did.

We will continue to diligently report on this story and these issues and share our findings with our readers while doing our best to objectively pursue the truth through the presentation of facts, verification, and transparency.

If we’ve learned anything from our internet oligarchs and the federal government’s late effort to impose on them some regulation, it’s that it is hard to impose rules on something after it has already grown out of control. The same will be true of the cannabis industry and its rapacious invasion of Santa Barbara County, which may or may not be on a path to be the West Coast’s answer to Jamaica. And we all know how quickly marijuana grows. Hopefully the independent investigation commissioned by Police Chief Barney Melekian in the wake of the L.A. Magazine story will clear the air, and the stench, that commercial cannabis has brought to our foothills, shores, and unfortunately to some of our local politicians.

In the meantime, please read Nick Schou’s reporting (beginning on page 6) on the fallout from that story, which is, in part, a result of previous reporting done by Nick Schou.


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