Commercial cannabis growers who paid $5,000 each in renewal registration fees can expect refund checks by mid-October, Timothy Lutz, Calaveras County administrative officer, said this week.

Lutz also says some commercial cannabis growers might get refunds as the county works toward a final conclusion of its ill-fated commercial cannabis regulatory program.

Many former growers are in the process of suing the county. Lutz said the refunds are unrelated to growers’ legal actions.

“This has no impact on any litigation currently past or pending,” Lutz said Friday in response to questions. “It is merely the county closing out the program.”

Renewal fees were paid by people associated with 28 cultivation sites, Lutz said. They will be notified of availability of refund checks. Initial reimbursements for growers who paid renewal registration fees will occur by Oct. 15.

Growers associated with the Calaveras Cannabis Alliance and the Calaveras Cannabis Legal Defense Fund welcome the county move, but they still expect a full accounting of how the county allegedly misused $16.3 million in Measure C taxes and fees, Trevor Wittke with the CCA said Friday.

“This is, essentially, they made a bunch of people pay registration fees between the day they enacted the ban and the day it was enforced,” Wittke said. “There was 90 day period. A whole bunch of people had fees to pay to maintain their good standing.

The legal actions taken by growers so far, Wittke said, include a Measure C lawsuit, a takings lawsuit, a CEQA land use lawsuit, and a Brown Act lawsuit that are moving forward at the local court level or the appellate court level, Wittke said.

Lutz said renewal fees were the same as initial registration fees: $5,000 per cultivation site. The fees were collected based on when the registrant’s initial application was approved. Someone who was initially approved in January 2017 would have renewal fees due in January 2018. It was all based on individual growers.

Renewal fees were collected up to June 7, the effective date of the ban, Lutz said

“The reason for this is that many growers wanted to remain in compliance with state regulations, lest they want to grow elsewhere,” Lutz said.

In addition, there will be accounting and possible reimbursement of funds remaining in the regulatory fee fund, Lutz said. County staff believe there will still be dollars in the commercial medical cannabis registration fee fund, after renewal fees are paid.

Wittke said it’s good the county is talking about refunding 28 times $5,000, which totals $140,000. But formerly registered commercial cannabis growers expect more.

“Our reaction is this is only a half step, and that the county has not given a full accounting, and they haven't properly addressed concerns about misuse of the registration fees and funds,” Wittke said. “

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

21184830