SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California county auditor is accusing a sheriff of improperly spending some of the $1 million his department received in fees from legal pot growers to go after illegal operators.
It’s the latest skirmish over pot in a rural county confronting a massive influx of marijuana growers in the run up to Jan. 1 when recreational cannabis sales becomes legal in California.
Calaveras County sheriff Rick DiBasilio denies the auditor’s charge that he can only use the money for background checks and other permit-related activity. He says busting illegal pot operations is necessary to regulate marijuana in the county, and is working with county officials on resolving the issue. The sheriff declined further comment.
California counties and cities have been wrangling with whether to allow recreational pot operations within their borders since voters passed Proposition 64 in November. Some have already enacted outright bans while others embrace marijuana as a financial boost.
In Calaveras, residents are deeply divided over the county’s year-old decision to permit medical marijuana farmers who pay $5,000 application fees and pass background checks. Marijuana foes said the county’s new ordinance has attracted a large number of undesirable drug dealers, leading to higher crime and community upheaval.
Four of the five supervisors who enacted the pot ordinance last year have been replaced by candidates who vowed to repeal the ordinance and ban all marijuana operations. But their plan to repeal has been slowed by legal threats from the pot farmers who have already paid a combined $3.7 million in fees to the county.
It’s those fees that auditor Rebecca Callen said the sheriff improperly tapped to help finance pot farm raids and arrests.
Callen said in an interview with Capital Public Radio KXJZ she has been warning the sheriff of her concerns, but it appears he has spent about $120,000 on law enforcement activities not related to the marijuana ordinance. She believes money collected from the permits should only be spent for things such as background checks and other permit-related activity.
“So far there’s been very minimal corrective action from the sheriff,” Callen told the station. Callen did not return several phone calls from The Associated Press to her office and home voicemail this week.
In a prepared statement Thursday, the sheriff said he has “resolved” the issue with county lawyers and the board of supervisors.
“We are aware of the concerns raised by the use of certain funds for eradication activities, and have been in useful negotiations to resolve differences in the interpretation of applicable law,” DiBasilio said.
County administrator Tim Lutz said Thursday that he believes the sheriff has spent the marijuana fees appropriately, but said officials were working on updating and clarifying its pot regulations.
The rural county is nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills about 125 miles (200 kilometers) east of San Francisco. It has always attracted marijuana growers because of its temperate climate, inexpensive land and proximity to urban areas.
But the region’s popularity as a marijuana destination soared after a 2015 wildfire that killed two people and destroyed 900 buildings, turning forests into prime farmland and depressing real estate prices even more.
Outside growers, many paying cash to landowners motivated by the fire to sell, flooded in, overwhelming local law enforcement officials and county resources.
“It was a perfect storm,” Lutz said.
Columbus, Ohio May Significantly Reduce Penalties for Marijuana Possession
New Jersey Opens Major Expansion of Medical Marijuana Program
Plan For Automatic Expungement of Cannabis Records Proposed in Michigan
Navigating Child Protective Services When You Use Cannabis
House Votes to Protect States With Legal Marijuana From Feds
Two Plead Guilty to Using United States Postal Service to Traffic Marijuana
Honoring the Legend: Jack Herer
Raid of Massive Illegal Cannabis Grow Site in California Took Four Days to Complete
News6 days ago
What Was Said at Today’s Congressional Hearing on Federal Marijuana Law Reform
Health7 days ago
The Pechoti Method: Can You Put Weed in Your Belly Button?
News5 days ago
Coast Guard Busts Submarine Carrying Over $500 Million Worth of Cocaine, Weed
News5 days ago
Florida Court Rules Medical Marijuana Licensing Law Unconstitutional
Health6 days ago
Cannabis and Mental Health: Schizophrenia
News7 days ago
Hawaii Officially Decriminalizes Small Quantities of Cannabis
News5 days ago
Leading Cannabis Brand Bhang Corporation Goes Public
News5 days ago
Pennsylvania Adds Anxiety and Tourette Syndrome to Medical Marijuana Program