In less than two years, the amount of marijuana seized in Santa Barbara County during raids of both indoor and outdoor illegal grow operations has increased nearly 350 percent, according to Sheriff’s Department data. With the majority of those busts coming during the summer months, when funding for such sweeps and arrests comes from the multi-agency CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) program, the Sheriff’s Department recently applied for and, as of this week, received a state grant earmarked specifically to help find, raid, arrest, and prosecute illegal marijuana growers for the rest of the year.
The grant, which was formally accepted by county supervisors on Tuesday morning, brings some $275,000 of California Emergency Management Agency funds into the county for the 2010-11 fiscal year to be divvied up between the Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office. According to Chief Assistant District Attorney Ann Bramson, roughly $80,000 to $85,000 of the money will underwrite “half” a prosecutor, so to speak, with the remainder of the money going to the Sheriff’s Department where, according to spokesperson Drew Sugars, the grant will allow for the reassignment of one special-duty deputy.
Rumored in medical marijuana circles since it was first applied for several months ago as a possible motivation behind the recent uptick in raids of allegedly “illegal” dispensaries, the grant, Bramson explained last week, has no relevance to those ongoing cases. “Certainly it targets sales and distribution throughout the county,” said Bramson, “but it is not some sort of dispensary grant and it definitely would not have been in effect [when those raids began late last winter].”