Are There 450 Million Doobies in Santa Barbara’s Future?

Burning Question Is the Tax Rate

Santa Barbara County supervisors Steve Lavagnino (left) and Das Williams head the county’s effort to draft a cannabis ordinance.
Brandon Yadegari

Cannabis experts conservatively estimate that one million pounds of pot will be harvested this year in Santa Barbara County. That translates to 450 million grams (or doobies). And this is just the beginning. A total of 534 individuals signed up for the county’s cannabis registry. More than 200 operators said they are already growing weed ​— ​on 396 acres ​— ​and 506 new cultivators hope to begin planting on 1,126 acres.

Since California legalized recreational marijuana last November, county officials have been working to regulate the industry. But it is still the Wild West. “The weird, counterintuitive thing is if you want more enforcement on marijuana, we have to permit marijuana,” County Supervisor Das Williams told growers and their concerned neighbors at a July 11 hearing. Williams and fellow supervisor Steve Lavagnino are heading the county’s effort to draft a cannabis ordinance, and Lavagnino agreed: “We have a lot of ambiguity in the existing law.”

In fact, the existing law does not actually exist. In January 2016, the county supervisors hastily adopted a moratorium on all new medical marijuana cultivation that exempted current growers. But many Carpinteria residents claim new growers took advantage of this loophole and started growing illegally. In any case, new state law will require everyone to apply for new permits next year.

The burning question is the tax rate, which must be approved by voters. County Supervisor Peter Adam, who owns a large family farm in Santa Maria, was adamantly opposed to a flat tax on square footage. The alternatives, Lavagnino said, are taxing weight or percentage of gross receipts. The state of California plans to tax cannabis on cultivation at a rate of $148 per pound of pot flowers. That’s $148 million in Santa Barbara County ​— ​by conservative estimates


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