CA: County May Need 22 New Employees To Handle Permits, Licensing Of Cannabis Operations, Enforcing Regulations

Photo Credit: Brennan Linsley

Santa Barbara County may have to hire the equivalent of 22 new employees at a cost of $4.31 million to deal with permitting and licensing cannabis operations and enforcing cannabis regulations.

That’s the latest estimate the Executive Office staff will deliver to the Board of Supervisors, along with a proposed cannabis licensing ordinance, when it meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The meeting will take place in the board hearing room of the Joseph Centeno Betteravia Government Administration Building at 511 E. Lakeside Parkway in Santa Maria.

The estimated total increase in staffing is less than the number provided to supervisors in December, when the estimate was the equivalent of 26.5 employees.

But the total cost is higher than in December, when the estimated cost of the projected additional staffing totaled $4 million.

A staff report from Executive Office says there are a number of reasons for the changes, including that the December estimates were based on the anticipated 250 or more permit and license applications projected from the cannabis registry.

But based on the number of applications for temporary state permits, the staff has revised the number of applications expected in the 12 months after the ordinances become operational to between 100 and 200.

Supervisors have also adopted code amendments that revised various departments’ scope of responsibility.

Those factors allowed departments to adjust the level of staffing needed, according to the report.

In addition, December estimates for staff costs were based on 2017-18 salary and benefits schedules, while the new estimates use the 2018-19 schedules.

The work is divided into two areas — processing and monitoring compliance with permit and license applications, which is funded by revenues from application fees, and enforcement operations against unregulated or illegal cannabis operations, which must be funded from other sources.

Staff is estimating the equivalent of 12.5 additional full-time employees will be needed for application processing and compliance monitoring at a cost of $2.37 million.

The additional staffing will be needed in the chief executive officer, county counsel, fire, sheriff, agricultural commissioner, public health, planning and development and treasurer-tax collector offices and departments.

As staffing needs and costs are refined, a fee schedule will be developed to cover those costs and brought to supervisors for approval.

For enforcement operations, the equivalent of 9.5 additional full-time employees are anticipated at an estimated cost of $1.96 million.

Supervisors will have to come up with a funding source to pay for those positions.

License changes

Supervisors on Tuesday will consider business licenses incorporating revisions they requested when they first considered the staff proposal March 20.

Among the changes requested by the board are a ban on outdoor cultivation in the Coastal Zone — an area from the mean high tide line to roughly 1,000 yards inland — and a cap of 186 acres of indoor or mixed-light cannabis cultivation within the Carpinteria Agricultural Overlay District.

The requirement for growers to develop an energy conservation plan was revised to allow them to purchase renewable energy credits as an alternative, particularly when there is no historical energy use to provide a basis for conservation.

Revisions were also made to simplify the process of appealing permit and license denials, and wording changes were made to sections on personal indoor cultivation and the definition of mature plants to align the ordinance with land use permit amendments.

The board also is scheduled to consider how to deal with compliance issues during the transition period when operators are applying for annual licenses from the state but the county’s ordinances have not become operational.

Residents who can’t attend the meeting in Santa Maria can watch it live-streamed at and on YouTube.