Santa Barbara County’s cannabis tax revenue continues to grow, with a reported $ 5.1 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2020-21.
Fiscal analyst Steven Yee of the County Executive Office said that this represents a 160 percent increase in the amount raised over the same quarter last year and that revenue for the current year could reach $ 16 million, much more than the budgeted amount.
The county oversees the local cannabis industry, including cultivation, processing, distribution, and retail businesses.
According to the recently approved budget, the county expects cannabis-related revenues to continue growing, bringing in $ 19 million over the next year.
Approximately $ 8 million of the $ 19 million in cannabis tax revenue will be spent on administrative and enforcement costs of the county’s cannabis program, and an additional $ 5.5 million was used for other ongoing expenses not solely related to cannabis. so the County Executive Office.
Most of the tax revenue related to cannabis so far has come from its cultivation, but the county expects to approve and license retail dispensaries within the next year.
According to Brittany Heaton, who works on the county’s cannabis program, senior applicants have until July 30 to submit a full permit application.
Applicants were rated for five of the six areas: Toro Canyon / Summerland, Eastern Goleta Valley, Isla Vista, Santa Ynez, and Los Alamos. The location of the Orcutt Community Plan area issuing office is under appeal in court.
Cannabis approval update
Santa Barbara County regulators decided to allow some operators to grow marijuana as “non-legal” uses while pursuing local land use permits and business licenses.
Last year the county reported that 199 of its 270 hectares of active cannabis cultivation were from “illegal” operators.
Now, Yee reported that there are 382 acres of cannabis cultivation in the county that are associated with active state licenses, of which 355 are in the inland and coastal areas and 27 are in the Carpinteria area.
In March, the county had 1,551 state cannabis licenses, most of which were provisionally owned by “illegal” operators, the county report said.
About 30% of the licenses were annual licenses, which have a higher approval threshold and are reviewed annually.
Some of the companies have reportedly expanded their cannabis activities, which local regulations don’t allow, but still got district permits. Another farmer got his permit months after he was charged with violating air quality regulations by using diesel generators as the main source of electricity for his farms near Buellton.
The county has set caps of 186 acres for the Carpinteria Valley and 1,575 for the inland area, and the proposed acreage continues to exceed those limits, Yee said.
“In the third quarter, the planned cultivation area in connection with permit applications continues to exceed both cultivation limits,” he said. “Due to the considerable demand for commercial cannabis cultivation activities in our district, not all applicants will be able to reserve their cultivation space below the respective upper limits that (the) board has decided.”
According to Heaton, the approved acreage could reach the upper limit by the end of 2021 at the short end or by the end of 2022 at the long end.
Yee said the planning and development department approved seven land use permits for growing cannabis in the third quarter that are being issued or will be issued shortly and seven more that community members have appealed and hearings are pending.
So far, 69 operators have applied for a total of 119 cannabis business licenses, and the county has issued 24, Yee said. Pending license applications are mostly due to applicants not having a permit, which is required first, he said.
The third district mayor, Joan Hartmann, asked if the county would notify the unauthorized, illegal operators before the land restrictions were reached so that they would have time to shut down.
“I think we should think ahead of time about letting people know that they are at risk and that without permission they cannot be illegal forever,” she said. “We’re going to have a lot of non-commercial cannabis land use permits, that’s an interesting dilemma.”
Heaton said the county is working to address these issues before it gets so close to the land cap that it has concerns with applicants and the corporate licensing team.
Heaton said the county is using an online portal to speed up the application review process and will be hiring jobs to expedite the review process.
“We made some significant advances in the last quarter that we believe will save about two months of the process of consolidating a one-step process that applicants are going through compared to the previous three-step process,” she added.
The county is also working on a report to assess joining the California Cannabis Authority membership, Heaton said.
“That way, we can get data analytics to help data oversight on cannabis compliance, management and regulation, and also give us better tools to predict future earnings,” she added.
Recent cannabis enforcement
The cannabis compliance team, which includes staff from the sheriff’s department, carried out multiple raids last quarter, destroying 594 cannabis plants and confiscating 123 pounds of cannabis products with an estimated street value of $ 600,000, the county said.
The compliance team issued four search warrants and six arrests related to illegal indoor cultivation and illegal delivery services.
The county recently filed a public harassment lawsuit against a grower and filed four complaints of non-compliance to revoke state licenses.
Planning and Development responded to 103 cannabis complaints, of which 97 related to complaints about cannabis odor in the Carpinteria area.
Managing Editor Giana Magnoli contributed to coverage of this story.