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California Auditor Accuses Sheriff of Misusing Legal Cannabis Revenue to Fund Raids

The auditor and sheriff have disagreed over the proper use of cannabis grower permit funds.

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A California auditor has accused a local sheriff of improperly using legal cannabis revenue to fund raids against illegal marijuana growers. Calaveras County Auditor Rebecca Callen released a public notice reporting that over $900,000 that the county had collected in cannabis grower permit fees had been misused by law enforcement. According to Callen, police are only able to use the money to fund background checks, regulatory inspections, and permit-related inquiries.

The sheriff in question, Rick DiBasilio, denies the auditor's charges, and has stated that investigating and raiding illegal cannabis growers is considered cannabis-related business, and therefore a proper use of the permit funds. "There was no mismanagement of any funds,” DiBasilio said. “We had a meeting, a closed session meeting and I can't talk about it because it's a closed session meeting and it'll come up to light at the next board meeting. [Callen] made a comment, she has her reasons for making that comment I guess. It'll all come out."

“We struggled last year to keep departments in line. Most have worked with us and made the corrections,” Callen said. “The sheriff’s office has not.” The auditor said that DiBasilio's department may have used over $120,000 of the cannabis permit fees to fund criminal investigations, book suspects, and pay extra hours for bailiffs. “It jeopardizes and tarnishes the county. It shows the county’s lack of ability to properly handle funds,” Callen said. “It already is embarrassing.”

Calaveras County has already collected $3.7 million in grower permits. The county has approved 148 permits while denying another 155, and currently have a backlog of 393 new applications. The approved licensees will be able to open up shop starting January 1st, 2018, and in addition to permit fees, the county is also drawing in revenue from Measure C taxes, which require growers to pay $2 per square foot for outdoor grows, and $5 per square foot for indoor grows. The county collected $6.7 million in Measure C tax money by June, and will collect more in December.

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