Santa Barbara County supervisors are approaching the final stages of establishing a selection process for cannabis retail operations that could result in six new storefronts by the end of 2020.
Dennis Bozanich, deputy county executive officer, outlined the process for supervisors on Dec. 17 and explained two amendments expected to be adopted at the next Board of Supervisors meeting on Jan. 14.
Mr. Bozanich presented a followup to the discussion that the board had in early November on the options to consider a criteria-based retail selection process, outlining how the process would work and what would be a factor for scoring applications. Based on the recommended changes, Mr. Bozanich presented an amendment to licensing fees.
The amendments are the final steps in establishing a process for selecting which applicants will be among the six cannabis retail operations to be allowed in the county. The supervisors originally considered allowing eight, but decided not to include Vandenberg Village or Cuyama among areas eligible for cannabis retail. Although there will be six opportunities for storefronts in the county, all six might not be approved.
“I guess my philosophy on this is just because you have five orpportunities or six, doesn’t mean we have to approve five or six. I do think that we still have some discretionary control if something comes along that isn’t appropriate for a given community,” 1st District Supervisor Das Williams said at the meeting.
Amendments presented on Dec. 17 replaced the ordinance’s lottery system with a merit-based application and selection process.
The proposed process would begin with a public meeting in each of the six community plan areas. Following each community plan meeting, the resulting list of neighborhood compatibility priorities will be posted on the county website. The county will then publish a notice of availability of applications and the deadline for their submission at least 30 days prior to their availability.
Applicants would be required to include a business operations proposal and a neighborhood compatibility proposal. Accepted applications may then be forwarded to a third-party contractor for scoring and ranking based on a scoring sheet.
A second item on Dec. 17 amended licensing fees and established a cannabis retail application fee of $4,100. Once the application is accepted the fee is non-refundable.
At the meeting, Devon Wardlow, a representative for Santa Barbara’s Coastal Dispensary, thanked supervisors for their work but warned against giving an advantage to multi-state cannabis operations over local businesses in the way points are awarded for how much money an applicant has available for the investment.
“For local operators and small businesses, obviously we don’t have the same access to capital as huge operators, as multi-state operators do. This ordinance is going to attract a lot of multi-state operators that have a much higher level of access to capital than local operators do,” said Ms. Wardlow.
Ms. Wardlow suggested a $1 million cap on required capital, which the supervisors said they will consider.
According to the estimated timeline given by Mr. Bozanich, applications could be due in June 2020 and selections could be made by September or October. The application and selection process is expected to be formally adopted by the supervisors on Jan. 14.
“This might be the last cannabis retail meeting we have with an empty room,” noted board Chairman and 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, “I’ve got a feeling once we select somebody and have a location we may be receiving more public input.”
The meeting was also the last for Mr. Bozanich, who has become known for his work developing cannabis regulations in Santa Barbara County over the last two years. As Mr. Bozanich moves to Northern California after over a decade working with the county, he will be replaced by former Undersheriff Bernard Melekian, who has served as assistant CEO over public safety since September 2018.
In thanking Mr. Bozanich for his work, County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato listed a number of his accomplishments, including work on the Chumash fee-to-trust proposal, county emergency air-support, and the fire tax.
“He’s done a lot for this county during his tenure, and I just want to thank him for all his work and wish him well in his next phase of his life,” said Ms. Miyasato.