Although 42 cannabis business applications have been approved, Humboldt County’s processing of hundreds of applications before the state marijuana market comes online in 2018 is expected to pay off in millions of dollars in new tax revenues, according to county officials.
Within the last two weeks of June, the county Planning and Building Department’s Cannabis Services Division received about 300 completed applications on top of the 500 it had already taken, according to Planning and Building Department Deputy Director Robert Russell.
“That commitment did exactly what it was intended to which was to get folks into the process early enough so that we can get them postured for the state license processing,” Russell said.
Of the over 2,300 cannabis business permit applications the county has received, only 150 of them were actually completed and ready for processing.
As a way to incentivize people to complete their applications, Planning and Building Department Director John Ford committed in May to process all completed cannabis business permit applications by the end of the year if they are turned in by June 30.
Since that commitment was made, the number of completed applications shot up to about 800 applications.
So far, 42 of the 2,300 permits have been approved, according to Russell.
The increase in completed applications has also resulted in the projected revenues from the county’s cannabis cultivation tax, Measure S, for this fiscal year to increase by nearly 120 percent from $2.2 million to $4.8 million, according to the County Administrative Office.
Russell said the actual tax revenue the county will receive could be affected by the state’s marijuana regulations, which are still in the process of being formed. The state rules are expected to be finalized by the end of the year.
“Midway through our fiscal year, the state is going to say, ‘Here is what we’re going to license,’ and that may have an impact on what we’re able to permit halfway through our fiscal year,” Russell said. “That will potentially impact the dollars we see from cannabis cultivation taxes.”
The number of completed permits represents one-third of the total permit applications received by the county, and less than 10 percent of the total estimated cannabis grows that exist in the county.
At least 8,400 grows exist in the county, according to a study by UC Berkeley Assistant Cooperative Extension specialist Van Butsic that used data from 2012 and 2013. Butsic said last year that it is like that many more grows exist currently.
Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.