567 W. Channel Islands Blvd., #125
Port Hueneme, CA 93041
May 15, 2021.
To the Editor of the XXXXXX,
RE: COUNTY OF SANTA BARBARA – CANNABIS REGULATION & LICENSING
I write this letter to bring to your attention the wrongful application of, and political interference with, Chapter 50 of the Santa Barbara County Code (“Ordinance”), which provides for Licensing of Cannabis Operations.
The Ordinance requires prior licensing of all entities engaged in the business of producing, manufacturing and/or distributing cannabis and cannabis-based products. The County is tasked with the responsibility of vetting license applications and issuing licenses to successful candidates. With respect to storefront retail operations, the Ordinance limits the issuance of licenses to one storefront for each community plan area, i.e. Orcutt, Los Alamos, Santa Ynez, Eastern Goleta Valley, Isla Vista/Goleta, and Summerland and Toro Canyon. Due to this limitation, storefront retail license application process becomes extremely competitive.
To address the competitive nature of the process, the Ordinance provides for a criteria-based application and selection process for cannabis storefront retail. The criteria used shall in consideration of other requirements assess each applicant’s business operations proposal and neighborhood compatibility proposal. Evaluation of these proposals is based on experience owning or operating a cannabis related business, proof of corporate status from California secretary of state, step-by-step procedures to demonstrate compliance with state and local regulations for the proposed business, site visit, customer and community education plan, neighborhood compatibility plan including, but not limited to, interior and exterior design, odor control, onsite parking, compliance with community plan standards and comprehensive plan standards and any other information determined by the CEO to be necessary for the purpose of criteria-based selection.
This year, a fresh batch of applications were submitted to the County Executive Office for consideration for storefront retail licenses. The applicants were a diverse range of entities including those with previous experience owning or operating a cannabis business, and some who have no experience whatsoever with respect to the cannabis industry. Each applicant submitted its Business operations Proposals and neighborhood compatibility proposal to demonstrate to the County Executive their ability to perform obligations under the license.
One of the experienced applicants this year includes Higher Purpose Cannabis a.k.a. HPC. HPC is a company that has been operating in the cannabis industry for several years. It is Ventura County’s #1 state licensed female owned cannabis dispensary in Port Hueneme and Oxnard. The company was also selected and ranked at #4 as a “2021 Best Cannabis Companies to Work for” by Cannabis Dispensary Magazine. In addition, the company has over the years focused on providing top notch services as well supplying products that are regulated and safe for the consumer.
The County Executive considered each application and on April 30, 2021, the County Executive issued a final determination on the successful candidate. To the surprise of other applicants, the County Executive chose a company with zero experience either owning or operating a cannabis business. This successful applicant has now been linked to a prominent figure known to be a political contributor to City and County officials.
Some of the unsuccessful applicants have submitted a scoring protest challenging the decision by the County Executive and demanding for details informing the decision made. The County in response has refused to give details maintaining that withholding this information is in the public’s best interest.
Given the diverse qualifications of the applicants, this emerging link between the County and the successful candidate suggests potential political interference with a process that by law is intended to be free and fair for all. The refusal to justify the decision by relying on public safety as an excuse suggests all the more a misapplication of the law and potential political interference.
I urge that you take this letter and its contents into consideration.
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