Cannabis Tax Faces Little Formal Opposition in Santa Barbara County

Measure T Could Bring in Upward of $25 Million

Supervisors Steve Lavagnino (left) and Das Williams
Paul Wellman (file)

With Santa Barbara County supervisors salivating for millions in new tax revenues promised by legalized cannabis sales, one might expect a more vociferous campaign in favor of the proposed pot tax quietly headlining the June 5 election in the form of Measure T. To date, the campaign has made all the ruckus of no hands clapping, but with this week’s mailing of sample ballots, registered voters now know there are at least two sides. Leading the charge on behalf of Measure T are supervisors Das Williams and Steve Lavagnino, both eager to reap a tax windfall upward of $25 million. Opposing Measure T is Supervisor Peter Adam and Joe Armendariz of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association, who said he has no plans to raise campaign money, but will speak out against it whenever given an opportunity.

Mollie Culver, a political strategist and consultant for the cannabis industry, stated the pro-tax campaign will stress how the new revenue will pay for the enforcement needed to put black marketeers out of business. Industry insiders argue that those operating outside the law have an advantage over those trying to be legal. To apply for a permit costs $30,000, and that doesn’t include costs associated with odor control, tracking plants from seed to sale, and testing for strength and chemicals. Opponents contend the tax revenues should have been earmarked for specific purposes rather than the county’s general fund, where they can be used for anything a board majority decrees.

Currently, Santa Barbara County has about 225 acres under cultivation under temporary permits with the state, enough to harvest about 500,000 pounds a year. About one-third of that is in the Carpinteria Valley, and a quarter in Lompoc. Carpinteria City Council remains hostile to the new industry — which has sprouted up in greenhouses that once grew cut flowers — while Lompoc has embraced it with tax-free open arms and the least restrictive regulations in the county.


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