A California county auditor is accusing a sheriff of improperly spending some of the $1 million his department received in fees from legal pot growers to go after illegal operators.
It’s the latest skirmish over pot in a rural county confronting a massive influx of marijuana growers in the run up to Jan. 1 when recreational cannabis sales becomes legal in California.
Calaveras County sheriff Rick DiBasilio denies the auditor’s charge that he can only use the money for background checks and other permit-related activity. He says busting illegal pot operations is necessary to regulate marijuana in the county, and is working with county officials on resolving the issue. The sheriff declined further comment.
California counties and cities have been wrangling with whether to allow recreational pot operations within their borders since voters passed Proposition 64 in November. Some have already enacted outright bans while others embrace marijuana as a financial boost.
In Calaveras, residents are deeply divided over the county’s year-old decision to permit medical marijuana farmers who pay $5,000 application fees and pass background checks. Marijuana foes said the county’s new ordinance has attracted a large number of undesirable drug dealers, leading to higher crime and community upheaval.
Four of the five supervisors who enacted the pot ordinance last year have been replaced by candidates who vowed to repeal the ordinance and ban all marijuana operations. But their plan to repeal has been slowed by legal threats from the pot farmers who have already paid a combined $3.7 million in fees to the county.
It’s those fees that auditor Rebecca Callen said the sheriff improperly tapped to help finance pot farm raids and arrests.
Callen said in an interview with Capital Public Radio KXJZ she has been warning the sheriff of her concerns, but it appears