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City of Lompoc considers spending more than $1.2 million on cannabis oversight committee

Posted at 11:43 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 02:43:20-04

Lompoc, the city of arts and flowers, may soon be known for another type of flower bud.

The city says the cannabis industry helped keep the city afloat while COVID-19 kept tourists away from the hotels.

The City Council is currently considering if this industry needs an oversight committee that they say will help businesses, but critics want to keep the city government out.

"We've had over 52 applications for cannabis businesses. Of the 52 applications, 35 permits have been issued and of those 35, 14 or 15 of those are dispensaries that have opened or plan to open," Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne said.

While some may think the free-market approach could be difficult to sustain, some stakeholders are experiencing the opposite.

"We actually had our best day on 4/20, where we saw almost 900-1000 customers that day," General Manager of Elevate, Kristine Bates, said.

As more cannabis businesses look to open up shop in the city, the City Council is considering adding an advisory committee that would have oversight over the cannabis industry.

"We're assisting the cannabis industry by staying on top of what are the changes, what are you as a local business doing and doing well, where are some areas that you may need to make some improvements and therefore helping you avoid losing your license," Osborne said.

City staff estimate, however, that committee could come with a price tag of more than $1.2 million annually.

Bates estimates they pay $600 thousand dollars a year due to the city's 6% adult-use cannabis tax.

Bates says she could see the oversight committee being helpful, but it should be funded by the taxes they're already paying.

"Pretty much once you're in compliance, you stay in compliance and there's not much you have to do after that initial investigation. So I'm thinking already our adult-use cannabis tax can go to that instead of another annual licensing fee," Bates explained.

It's still unclear when the city may revisit this topic. Osborne says they plan to break up cannabis-related issues ranging from tax amounts to this committee into separate meetings.

She adds there's a chance the city could see a decline in business applications as other communities in Santa Barbara County, like Guadalupe, look to allow cannabis businesses for the first time.