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Pot Crop Talk

Casey of O'Neil, local pot grower/rep, speaking at last week’s Supervisors meeting: “We would love to see cannabis included in the crop report in future years if possible.”

Sara Reith, KZYX,  Tuesday, 11 December: "In 1979 Ag Commissioner Ted Erickson surveyed farm equipment companies, nurseries, car lots, and his own sources to conclude that marijuana was a $90 million a year business in Mendocino County. Before everything was electronic, the Board of Supervisors insisted that he remove the information from every single printed copy of the annual crop report. Last week supervisors Carre Brown and John McCowen expressed cautious receptiveness to giving it another try."

Supervisor Carre Brown: “Just for history, and you may have heard it, it was probably before you were born, we had an Ag Commissioner that did report — and that's all I will say at this point. [Giggles.] But definitely it would definitely be something that maybe this board can discuss. I don't know if it's appropriate or not even though it is being called an agricultural crop.”

Supervisor Brown neglected to mention that Ted Erickson, the Ag Commissioner at the time, and the man who boldly included a viable estimate of the value of the pot crop, was fired for doing it. The Farm Bureau led the charge against him. Subsequent Ag Commissioner Dave Bengston told us years ago that he had a minute order from the Supes explicitly8 ordering him not to include estimated pot stats in the annual Ag report. Bengston said if three Supervisors directed him to include the stats, he would. By giggling and being coy about the true history of the Ag Report and the firing of a good man, thus true local history is re-written.

Continuing, McCowen: “Frankly, times are changing and it is, the industry is coming above ground and it should be accounted for one way or another. So I'm sure that will be an item for discussion: what is the proper way to track and report on this industry?”

One might expect that since the County has a detailed cannabis taxing regimen which has been developed and discussed at length at several prior supervisor's meetings where they dealt with how to handle various circumstances for tax purposes, they could at least ask County Tax Collector Shari Schapmire to provide the gross receipts which she is supposedly collecting taxes on.

According to the County's  most recent budget summary the "cannabis tax revenue" line item says that Mendo expected to receive about  $1.7 million in revenue (which may or may not include permit fees; the budget doesn't break down permits and tax revenues separately) but had only received almost $750k through March of 2018. The auditor “projected” that the cannabis tax revenue would be $850,000 by the end of June of 2018 and somehow "estimated" that the amount the revenue would rise to a little over $1,000,000 by the end of June 2018. It’s now December of 2018 and we still have no information any later than nine months ago?

We don't understand why the County’s revenue data is so slow to be recorded (HumCo has much more current comparable data), but even if you accept the dubious $1 million “estimated” by the auditor based on absolutely nothing, the cannabis tax revenues are substantially below budget.

No one seems interested in why that is, what the basis of the budget was in the first place, or what can be done to bring the cannabis program anywhere near to break even.

A cynic might well think that Official Mendo is avoiding the subject of how much pot is being brought under regulation, how much of it is taxable, how much is going untaxed, whether the initial taxing methodology is working, or whether the legal pot growers are properly reporting their taxable sales. (Har de har.)

After all, without these artificially inflated marijuana tax revenues (the program costs a lot more than it brings in and nobody’s interested in discussing that either), the board wouldn't be able to give themselves and their top officials the big raises they have been handing out lately.

If the board can't even include total legal cannabis sales value in their crop report like they do with all the other crops, they certainly won't be able to come up with anything approaching the real total value of marijuana in Mendocino County — even if they employed the creative methodologies used by Commissioner Erickson back in 1979.

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