New concerns about regulating the cannabis industry arose during the San Benito County Board of Supervisors meeting on Nov. 20. A cannabis business activity ordinance covering unincorporated parts of the county is expected to go before the board at its Dec. 11 meeting.
Commercial cannabis permits are divided into six types: cultivation, manufacturing, lab testing, distribution, microbusiness (non-retail) and retail. It sets an age limit of 21 for permit applicants and requires setback distances to residential, industrial and sensitive use zones.
Sheriff’s Office Capt. Eric Taylor said at the Nov. 20 supervisors meeting that the department had three concerns regarding public safety.
The first was the plan for funding and the date that funds would be available to help with the oversight of the program, which will require additional staffing. The second was the Sheriff’s Office involvement in the permit process to help “squash” the illegal activity, rather than being a “thorn in the side” of legal operators, according to Taylor.
“If we are familiar with the compliant industry, we’ll be able to quickly identify the non-compliant industry,” he said.
Third, Taylor said there is no reliable, accurate technology to detect impairment from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as law enforcement looks at ways to deal with possibly having more impaired motorists on the road.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis, affects areas of the brain that control body movement, balance, coordination, memory and judgment. After use, cannabis can remain (inactive) in a user’s system for weeks, depending on the amount and frequency of consumption.
Hollister Fire Department Fire Marshall Charlie Bedolla said he supported Taylor’s concerns regarding hiring additional staff to regulate and enforce cannabis businesses.
“It’s a full-time job for me trying to regulate and to make sure these facilities are safe for the employees and the public,” Bedolla said, later adding that local agencies have formed a team to conduct inspections together instead of individually. Members include building, planning, environmental health, fire and police officials.
The are no cannabis facility codes in California, Bedolla said, so the Hollister Fire Department is utilizing the model developed by the city of Denver, CO.
County voters approved Measure C in the June 6 primary election to create a tax on cannabis businesses. Revenues raised by Measure C can, according to the measure, be put toward cannabis-related law enforcement and other expenditures “per the board’s discretion.” Supervisor Mark Medina said he will push to use funds from Measure C accordingly.
Based on Taylor’s and Bedolla’s comments, Supervisor Jaime de La Cruz said he could foresee pressure on County Administrative Officer Ray Espinosa to “ramp up” staffing. De La Cruz said he did not want to use general fund money to fill the positions.
“I will not support you coming to the Board of Supervisors in the near future and asking us to fund staffing levels with general fund until we know that there’s going to be money available and money is going to come in,” De La Cruz told Espinosa.
Supervisors voted 4-1 to continue the ordinance to the Dec. 11 meeting for adoption. Supervisor Jerry Muenzer was the sole “no” vote, though he did not give a reason why. He did not comment nor raise a question during the items’ discussion. Muenzer has not responded to request for comment on his vote.