By PAUL GONZALEZ, NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
November 8, 2016 5:15 AM
As voters crowd the polls today, a group of local cannabis sellers are betting on the passage of a recreational marijuana proposition.
On Monday, the newly formed Cannabis Business Council (CBC) of Santa Barbara County released a statement on Proposition 64 which would legalize recreational marijuana use for people 21 years old and older under state law.
While the CBC stopped short of officially endorsing Prop 64, officials admitted that they expect the measure to pass.
Spokeswoman Elizabeth Davis explained that the roughly 30 member businesses operate in a variety of sectors of the medical cannabis industry, including cultivation.
"We don't know what's going to happen with 64, but our focus is on providing a unified voice for these [businesses]."
Ms. Davis continued that discrepancies between state, local and federal laws cause confusion for business owners, and added that the CBC would like to work with local jurisdictions to develop regulations that benefit the community and cannabis industry.
"We're committed to working with the community to create cannabis regulations that honor Santa Barbara's agricultural history, support good jobs and economic development and promote public safety and compliance with the law," said council interim chair Paul Kowalski.
The council has suggested the creation of a Santa Barbara County Cannabis Commission comprised of law enforcement, educators and elected officials.
The Chamber of Commerce of the Santa Barbara Region president Ken Oplinger said that new cannabis industry business would be welcome as members.
"We are essentially a supporter of free enterprise. Short of illegal activity, we have no policy against businesses of this type."
According to a poll released Nov. 1 by Stanford University's Hoover Institution, 64 percent of respondents favored Proposition 64 with 34 percent opposed and 10 percent undecided.
Under the proposed law, recreational smoking would be allowed in a private home or at a business licensed for marijuana consumption.
Smoking marijuana in public, while driving and in places where tobacco smoking is permitted would remain illegal.
Marijuana possession of up to 28.5 grams or 8 grams of concentrated marijuana, known as cannabis oil, would be legal except in a school or youth center where children are present.
Users would be allowed to cultivate up to six marijuana plants for personal use as long as the grow area is locked and not visible to the public.
Businesses looking to sell marijuana products would require a new state license and local governments could require additional regulations and licenses.
Proposition 64 would create taxes on marijuana cultivation and retail sales, which would be used for drug research and treatment as well as health and safety grants for youth drug education and preventing environmental damage from illegal marijuana production.
The cultivation tax would cost $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves produced, with certain medical exceptions.
The second tax would cost 15 percent of the retail price
To accomplish this, the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation would be rebranded as the Bureau of Marijuana Control and would control licensing marijuana businesses.
Those under the age of 18 convicted of marijuana use or possession would be required to attend a drug education program.
Unlicensed marijuana sales would be punishable by up to six months in jail with fines.
Individuals currently serving criminal sentences for activities made legal under the Proposition 64 would be eligible for resentencing.
Despite the growing public support, Santa Barbara City Councilman Frank Hotchkiss says the city plans to heavily restrict recreational cannabis sales.
"By and large the city is not real happy about this, though we do expect it to pass," said Mr. Hotchkiss, who expressed concern that legalization could make cannabis more accessible to minors.
"The real fear is that this filters down, through edibles and smokeables, to kids when it becomes legalized."