The county is already collecting cannabis tax dollars, but permitting process lags far behind. | Local News

Monterey County voters passed Measure Y, taxing marijuana grows like this one $15 per square foot. In 2020, that will rise to $25.

There are signs greenhouses throughout the Salinas Valley are converting from flowers to more lucrative marijuana. There’s the unmistakable smell – and there’s security. Barbed wire is going up on fences and guards are stationed 24/7 at gated entrances.

In the coming days, the Monterey County administrative office may resemble that scene: Armed guards are part of a new security strategy employed by Treasurer-Tax Collector Mary Zeeb’s office. The beefed-up security, which includes a new software system, is paid for out of the first batch of quarterly taxes the county collected from cannabis growers.

For the first quarter, which ended March 31, the county collected more than $1 million from 80 operators. For the second quarter, statements went out to 104 operators to submit payments by July 31. (As of July 24, Zeeb reports collecting $640,000.)

A “significant portion” of those payments are cash, Zeeb says, hence the security. That’s because pot remains federally illegal, leaving much business unbanked.

Even with 104 operators set to pay taxes, only one – Big Sur Canna+Botanicals, a dispensary in Carmel – is so far permitted by the Monterey County Resource Management Agency. There are 86 pending applications.

Attorney Jennifer Rosenthal Iverson represents Big Sur Canna+Botanicals, along with more than a dozen other cannabis businesses. “All of my clients are paying their taxes, doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” she says. “We’re operating under the theory that if all the criteria is being met that we are in good standing, and not subject to local law enforcement exposure.”

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