UCSB Econ Forecast Event Focuses on Cannabis Industry

Young leaves of marijuana on sky background

The 2020 Winter UCSB Economic Forecast event Jan. 28 focused on Santa Barbara County’s budding cannabis industry – no pun intended. 

The key speaker, Bernard Melekian, is the man in charge of the county’s cannabis regulatory operations in his role as assistant chief executive officer. He’s also a former Santa Barbara County undersheriff and ex-Pasadena police chief. 

“I’ve been a cop for 45 years,” Melekian said. He told an audience of about 100 at the Santa Barbara Hilton Resort. He said it’s his job to make sure all cannabis industry members “follow the rules.” 

He acknowledged that it’s a complicated process, but it will be done “one bite at a time.” 

Melekian noted the legal cannabis industry’s tax revenue production that is threatened by continuing illegal marijuana operations in the county. He said $2.86 million in revenue is supoposed to be coming in the first quarter of 2020 

However, Melekian said, “It’s here to stay.” 

Another speaker at the event, Laura Sykes, chief compliance and risk officer at American Riviera Bank, said Santa Barbara County has fallen behind Humbolt County in cannabis licenses. She also bemoaned cannabis industry banking problems caused by the federal restrictions on marijuana. 

A third speaker, Jon Ohlgren, senior vice president at Radius Ranch Vineyard and Agricultural Properties, said cannabis projects that follow the rules should be supposed, but those who don’t should be opposed. 

Amid some disputes in northern Santa Barbara County, Ohlgren said he sees some “synergy” with the cannabis and wine grape growing industry. Some wine industry members claim cannabis growing interfers with wine tasting. 

Posted Jan. 29, 2020.

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