SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office seized hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of illegal cannabis products in Santa Maria this week. Deputies say these and other efforts have made the Cannabis Compliance Team a role model at the state level after being formed just a little over a year ago.
“I think a lot of other counties are looking at us, at how we've formulated our task force with the District Attorney's office, with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and all of our other county players," said Lt. Erik Raney.
This week, deputies seized and destroyed illegal cannabis from multiple sites near Santa Maria as part of a month-long investigation. They also discovered a butane honey lab.
“Unless they're operating legally, there's no guarantee that those products that are going to the consumers are safe," said Raney.
The Lieutenant says the Cannabis Compliance Team formed a little over a year ago, but it's only been in full operation since January 2019.
“And they've already seized over a million actual plants that were in production, and over 85,000 lbs of processed marijuana," Raney said.
The Sheriff's Office says some illegal businesses try to find loopholes by lying about when they were established.
“In order to have applied for a state license and get the county's concurrence on that process, you had to have been an established grow before January 2016, operating as a medicinal marijuana operation," Raney said.
These cases are forwarded to the District Attorney's office; punishment can include fines or arrest.
“If it's a matter of illegal applications, versus illegal transportation, or sales, those carry with them different penalties," the lieutenant said.
The D.A's office is currently reviewing this week's case involving an illegal pot farm and a butane honey lab. No arrests have been made at this time.