Open Letter to the Board of Supervisors:
In 2019, when the cannabis tax was approved by voters, the Board of Supervisors promised to “use the majority of cannabis revenue to fund departments and agencies that oversee regulating and enforcing the cannabis industry.” At the cannabis industry’s request, you adopted a revenue standard of “self-declaring” rather than the industry standard of taxing cannabis by acreage or foot.
For the past three years, an underfunded and understaffed Cannabis Team, composed of one Lead Detective, five Deputy Detectives, and one civilian Administrative Staff, have had the prime directive of enforcement for the cannabis industry in S.B. County. In addition to being assigned enforcement on all cannabis growers in the entire county, they have now been assigned the duties of overseeing licensing (without additional funding or staff), previously assigned to the Planning Department. Furthermore, coming down the pipeline, there are multiple, huge and complex cannabis projects that will put even more demands upon the team.
In April 2021, at the BOS Budget Workshops, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Bonner stated, “The single, Cannabis Compliance Team that is presently available cannot simultaneously do both enforcement and licensing efficiently or effectively.” It was also reported that there are at least 21 suspected, illegal growers and dozens of illegal delivery services operating in our county that the team was unable to investigate and/or enforce on. Chief Deputy Bonner also stated, “…of the 108 growers, 50 percent claimed no income or did not file at all.”
When a sufficiently funded and staffed team is able to enforce the required tagging of plants, they will have the data, necessary to compute growers’ income and discover who and how much revenue is being denied the county.
The tagging of plants provides the number of plants, which along with the going price of cannabis, at time of sale, will provide the income that the grower should report. By continuing to underfund the team, S.B. County will never receive the revenue that these growers actually owe because you will never know what they are actually producing, unless that is the intention. We strongly recommend that you provide the necessary funding for the Team to do the job you assigned them, which will ensure that growers are paying their full, fair share and therefore, provide the necessary funding to reimburse the county.
For the last three years, law enforcement and hundreds of residents and businesses have asked you to fully fund the Cannabis Compliance Team and you have refused. If you refuse to adequately fund them for a fourth year in a row, the voters of Santa Barbara demand to know why?