County Releases Ranking for Orcutt Cannabis Dispensary Applicants After Legal Challenge | Local News

Santa Barbara County released a list Thursday of ranked applicants for an Orcutt cannabis dispensary, one of six locations that could be permitted in unincorporated areas.

Some local cities have decided to ban the retail storefront dispensaries completely; others have capped the number, and Lompoc allows an unlimited number of them.

The county already has released a final list of ranked applicants for five other dispensary locations, but the Orcutt location selection was paused because of a legal challenge.

Natural Healing Center Orcutt 405 sued the county after its application for the location was denied last year. A Superior Court judge initially ordered a stay on the selection process for the Orcutt location, and then in a Friday order, denied the cannabis business’ petition for the court to rescore the application.

Judge Colleen Sterne wrote, “County had discretion on how many points to award (or not award) in each section based upon the information provided by NHC.”

The court does not find that the application was scored incorrectly, she wrote. The county awarded the application 84 points, which is one shy of the 85 needed to advance to the third phase of the review process.

Five applicants were reviewed and ranked for a location in the Orcutt community plan area, and East Clark SB, doing business as Cookies, was on top for its proposed spot at 1604 E. Clark Ave., Building B, Suite 1.

The Cookies chain of dispensaries also has a location in Lompoc.

There’s a five-day period for people to file protests, and after those are considered, the county will release a final ranked list. 

The protest period did not alter the preliminary ranked lists for the other five dispensary locations in Toro Canyon/Summerland, the eastern Goleta Valley, Isla Vista, Santa Ynez and Los Alamos.

Brittany Heaton, who works on the county’s cannabis program, said the county hopes to see at least one of the six locations open by the end of the calendar year.

Five of the six top-ranked operators, who are allowed to apply for permits and business licenses, proposed spots in existing buildings, she told the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission on Wednesday.

“There are community concerns with almost every location for one reason or another,” Heaton noted.

Commissioner Daniel Blough had asked about the delay in the retail selection process, and when stores would open and the county would “start collecting their enormous (cannabis tax) revenues that they anticipated going forward.”

To date, most cannabis tax revenues have been from cultivation operations. Revenues are expected to grow to $19 million for the current fiscal year, according to the adopted budget.

Retail cannabis businesses are required to pay the county 6% of their gross receipts, a higher rate than cultivation, nursery, manufacturing and distribution businesses.

“After 14 years on this commission, I’m getting used to the fact that Santa Barbara County can’t do anything in a reasonable period of time,” he said.

Natural Healing Center, which had its Orcutt dispensary application denied by the county, operates dispensaries and farms in San Luis Obispo County. It purchased the 405 E. Clark Ave. building that housed the Old Town Market and intended to turn that into a dispensary.

One of its founders, Helios Dayspring, is expected to plead guilty to bribing late San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill in exchange for favorable votes, influence over other government officials, and confidential information, according to federal prosecutors.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Dayspring allegedly paid Hill $32,000 in cash and money orders in exchange for beneficial votes on issues related to his farms, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported.

It is unclear whether Dayspring was or is associated with the Natural Healing Center’s attempts to open a dispensary in Santa Barbara County.

— Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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