Cannabis tax revenues continue to increase in Santa Barbara County, with a reported $4.2 million received in the financial quarter that ended Sept. 30.
Fiscal analyst Steven Yee of the County Executive Office said that represents a 50% increase in revenue collected for the same quarter in 2019.
“Tax revenues remain strong despite the current economic climate,” Yee told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday during a report on cannabis tax collection, permitting and enforcement.
The county oversees the local cannabis industry, including cultivation, processing, distribution and retail businesses.
Yee said the county approved 18 business licenses last quarter, mostly for cultivation and nursery operations.
“The licensing team remains hard at work processing the pending applications and also processing renewal license applications for those operators that we licensed last year,” he said, noting that cannabis business licenses are valid for only one year and must be renewed annually.
Assistant County Executive Officer Barney Melekian said the county has received 21 applications for storefront dispensary licenses, and the selection process should be finished in early 2021.
For the upcoming quarter, the county hopes to phase out any cannabis grows located within developed rural neighborhoods, make the business licensing process more efficient and amend the business license ordinance, he said.
There are 270 acres of cannabis cultivation in the county associated with active state licenses (not all of those operators have local permits), and the majority of those operations are in the Lompoc, Santa Ynez and Carpinteria valleys, Yee reported.
Planning and Development issued four new land use permits, for a total of 21 to date. The majority of land use applications for growing marijuana are still in the review process.
There are applications for more acreage than is allowed under the county cultivation caps of 1,575 acres for inland areas and 186 acres for the Carpinteria area.
“This indicates that not all applicants will be able to reserve their acreage under the respective caps,” Yee said.
The county can file notices of noncompliance with the state to basically cancel state licenses, and did so five times last quarter, according to the report.
The Cannabis Compliance Team, which includes sheriff’s department employees, confiscated 7,220 live plants and 250 pounds of dried cannabis product during search warrants served last quarter.
Since the county changed its land use ordinance to prohibit cannabis cultivation within existing developed rural neighborhoods, nine of the 12 operations have stopped, and one filed litigation against the county, Yee said.
“Our enforcement efforts thus far have truly been a team effort by multiple departments working in concert,” Yee said. “There’s certainly more work to be done, but the team remains steadfast in ensuring a compliant culture countywide.”
He said the majority of complaints received from community members were associated with odor or illegal pesticide use.