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US (CA): Santa Barbara County supervisors wrestle greased pig of cannabis taxation

Cannabis may not have become quite the cash cow envisioned back in June 2018 when voters statewide voted to legalize commercial cultivation for recreational use, but the Santa Barbara County supervisors were reminded last Tuesday afternoon that when it comes to actually collecting taxes, the cannabis industry has become a greased pig that few could have imagined.

Efforts to wrestle that pig into submission have proved vexing and challenging, as the county Board of Supervisors discovered again last Tuesday. That's when they were informed there are no quick fixes or easy solutions when it comes to devising new taxation approaches that are less susceptible to industry evasion and that don't also kill the proverbial goose that lays the equally proverbial golden egg.

The stakes involved are undeniably high. In the past five years, commercial cannabis has generated $50 million in gross revenues for the County of Santa Barbara. For the most recent quarter, that number is $2.3 million. While the cannabis industry has tanked the past two years due to a massive glut on the market, the supervisors were told Santa Barbara County has collected the most cannabis-infused tax revenues of any county in the state. Santa Barbara County, they were also told, also happens to have the most land under legal cultivation in the state.

How much of that $50 million is "net" — above and beyond the costs of administration and enforcement for an industry that's inflicted massive growing pains on itself and the community at large — however, is not certain. But the industry is now reportedly coming out of its tailspin, so the upside to the county in terms of additional tax revenues is of more than merely theoretical interest.


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