Cloudy Conditions Prevail Over Calaveras Cannabis Enforcement Budget
San Andreas, CA – As the legal commercial cannabis industry reboots in Calaveras County, albeit, under much stricter regulatory controls, county officials find themselves in a budgetary quagmire.
At this week’s meeting, the board of supervisors failed a second time to get a four-fifths majority to approve recommended county staff budget and funding plans that were previously vetted and approved by various departmental heads.
The matter was brought back at the request of District 1 Supervisor Gary Tofanelli, who, as reported here, voted at the Nov. 19 meeting with District 4 Supervisor Dennis Mills against the plan. Tofanelli, who at the time had lamented being a swing vote, said he understood the impacts that failure to pass the budget plan would have.
At the end of the meeting, he requested to poll the board about bringing the matter back for a revote. He also said he would provide more input about his concerns to staff ahead of this week’s meeting with the hopes of getting to a “yes” vote. Apparently, the opportunity did not adequately resolve his differences because he and Mills again voted the proposed budget down on similar grounds as before.
Speaking with Clarke Broadcasting about the issue, Board Chair and District 2 Supervisor Jack Garamendi acknowledges that while the way forward will be more challenging, budget-wise, it has a legal obligation to enforce the laws that are enacted by the board of supervisors, including the regulatory ordinance now in effect.
“This is not the way one would want to move forward because we have a fee base…money coming in,” he says ruefully. “We have a very good strategic plan that was put together by our department heads and was based on our experience with the Urgency Ordinance.” He continues, “What we really wanted to do was to use the money from the cannabis growers to regulate the cannabis industry in an organized manner, and what we will have to do now is make do with the people that we have got.”
Moving Forward While Making Do
He adds, “The great irony of the whole thing is that this is exactly what the supervisors who have voted against this budget have been asking for They have been asking for accountability…a set line budget to be paid for by growers and not by the population in general, and yet they voted against it. But we will move forward — it is not the way I would like to do it but it is our only choice to get things done.”
While the impacts are yet to be felt, he points to an example brought up in the board meeting by county environmental health officials. Garamendi notes that environmental impacts and maintaining a healthy community were cited by pro-ban residents and the Cannabis Control budget subsequently included a dedicated position in that department.
Since the budget did not get four-fifths approval, that hiring cannot be made and the environmental health department will have to use existing resources, which will impact other services. “What do we take off the table? [Maybe services] such as restaurant inspections. Since they are not fee-based…they fall under the General Fund.”
Garamendi notes that such impacts are not the intention of the majority of the board. “Nor do I think it is the will of the people, who want the cannabis [industry members] to pay their own way, and the cannabis industry is willing to do it We have a solid program…and without a budget, other stuff will fall off the table — and that is really disappointing — especially as the money to do it is being collected in an account.”
Moving forward, to allocate any of those funds, the board will have to come to a four-fifths decision, which Garamendi says might come at the end of the budget cycle for this year.
“But between then and now, we have to do the work. It is extremely frustrating to be in this situation. People are literally starving while looking at the loaf of bread on the table. I say, let them eat.”