Grand Jury Flags Shortfalls in Monterey County’s Cannabis Program

Cannabis has become an increasingly important part of Monterey County’s agriculture and tax base, with marijuana tax revenue having become the second-largest contributor to the General Fund. Cannabis is among the top three crops in the county in terms of value, and Monterey County is the fourth largest legal producer in the state.

Despite the outstanding role cannabis plays in Monterey County’s economy, the cannabis program is lacking transparency, oversight and proper analysis, according to a new report from the county’s civil grand jury.

There is no comprehensive mechanism for tracking and reporting cannabis tax revenue and spending in the county, the grand jury found. As a result, it could not determine the economic impact of the county’s marijuana cultivation industry, nor has the county examined the impacts, according to the report.

The grand jury found no clear-cut process for determining which one-time allocations of cannabis revenue get submitted to the Board of Supervisors. Cannabis tax revenue has been used for a senior center, a homeless shelter, a soccer center, an emergency women’s shelter, and a local food bank. While laudable, it’s not clear how these programs were selected for consideration.

The grand jury has recommended a comprehensive annual report detailing Cannabis Tax Fund revenues, allocations and reserves by Dec. 31, 2022. This report should include the number of full-time employees funded by the Cannabis Tax Fund. The information should be easily accessible on the Monterey County Cannabis Program’s website, the report said.

The grand jury also recommended a comprehensive report on the economic impact of the local cannabis industry. The study should be completed by Monterey’s economic development manager by June 30, 2023.

Monterey County’s auditor/controller and the assessor/clerk/recorder have 60 days to respond to the grand jury’s report. The County Board of Supervisors has 90 days to respond. The Monterey County Cannabis Industry Association, the Monterey County Cannabis Program Manager, and the Monterey County Economic Development Manager are also invited to respond, although they are not legally required to do so.

Read more at the Monterey Herald.