The California Cannabis Authority Board — a joint powers authority established to help local governments manage marijuana-related financial and tax data — has elected 2nd District Humboldt County Supervisor Estelle Fennell as its first president.

“I have been involved for a while, trying to assert the rights and needs of rural counties, specifically cannabis-producing counties and how we weather a whole new world of cannabis,” Fennell told the Times-Standard on Friday.

According to a county Administrative Office press release, the CCA was established by the California State Association of Counties Finance Corporation, and the idea came out of the association’s work with the State Treasurer’s Office Cannabis Banking Working Group. Fourth District Humboldt County Supervisor Virginia Bass was elected the CSAC’s first vice president in December 2017.

Although California and 12 other states have decriminalized marijuana, the possession, use and sale of the drug remain illegal under federal law.

“One of the issues, of course, that rises to the fore is cannabis banking,” Fennell said. “Counties have imposed taxes, the state has taxes, but because of federal regulations, cash is still the norm for the industry.”

She added that this is the “first step in a lot of steps” that will help the cannabis industry and other industries as well.

The release states that the data will help local governments ensure compliance with state laws and also provide necessary information to financial institutions that wish to work with the cannabis industry.

“We will gather the necessary data on anybody in the business and ensure that whoever is working with them, that they are legal and permitted and lawful enterprises,” Fennell said. “I think what we will see is that it won’t happen overnight, but I think the trend is to remove the criminality and security concerns from the cash flow and it allows legal businesses to circulate that cash back into the community.”

According to the release, governments can use the data platform to enhance their local cannabis programs to ensure that adequate tax payments are being made; assist local law enforcement and code enforcement officers with accurate and defensible information; provide public health officials with product information and flow; and inform community planning efforts by understanding locations, concentrations and potential past or future land use patterns.

“We looked to states like Colorado and Washington and we think we have found a solution,” Fennell said. “This is a different approach, and even though California was behind those two states when it came to legalization, we feel we may have come up with a solution that really works.”

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in March to join the CCA, appointing Fennell to represent the county and Treasurer-Tax Collector John Bartholomew to serve as an alternate. The CCA consists of Humboldt, Monterey and San Louis Obispo counties and held its first meeting last month in Monterey County.

“It is the end user who made this happen,” Fennell said. “They wanted a reliable, safe, well-regulated product and now the end user has that. We hope to do that with other aspects of the industry.”

For more information on the CCA, contact CSAC senior legislative representative & federal affairs manager Cara Martinson at 916-650-8113 or cmartinson@counties.org, or CSAC Finance Corporation executive vice president Alan Fernandes at 916-650-8120 or alan @csacfc.org.

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