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Santa Barbara’s Cannabis Farming Sector Expanded By 45% Last Year

California’s legal cannabis market remains the largest in the nation, despite the state’s emerging industry experiencing growing pains in recent years. California was the first state to legalize cannabis for medical use in 1996, and voters approved recreational cannabis legalization in 2016.

Santa Barbara County, located in Southern California, has a population of roughly 445,000 people according to 2022 census census data. The county is a rare bright spot in California’s struggling legal cannabis industry.

“Santa Barbara’s pot farming industry expanded by nearly 50% last year, growing far more cannabis than in 2022, according to the county’s crop report released this week.” reported SFGate in its original coverage.

“In 2023, Santa Barbara grew 9.8 million pounds of cannabis worth $328.9 million, according to this week’s crop report. That’s an increase of 45% more overall cannabis weight compared with 2022. Overall revenue for cannabis grew at a slower rate, increasing 28% over the same time period, likely because wholesale cannabis prices have consistently fallen over the past eight years.” SFGate also reported.

Cannabis is the second-most valuable crop in Santa Barbara County, only behind strawberries. For contextual purposes, the wine grape industry was worth $98 million in Santa Barbara County in 2023, well under the value of the county’s cannabis production industry.

Mathematically speaking, Santa Barbara County is the largest legal cannabis-producing county in California, responsible for cultivating roughly 40% of all of the legal cannabis grown in California according to the Department of Cannabis Control.

In a trend that can be found throughout the State of California, local cannabis tax revenues in Santa Barbara County are lower than anticipated. Legal cannabis sales in California continue to underperform as the legal industry battles the still-thriving unregulated market.

“The shortfall for this fiscal year, covering June 2023 through June 2024, will likely be $1.8 million, or 24 percent less than the $7.5 million that was budgeted last June, county officials told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Fiscal year-end cannabis tax revenues are now projected to total $5.7 million — barely enough to cover the $5 million annual cost of ensuring compliance with county regulations and enforcing the law against black market operators.” stated the Santa Barbara Independent in its recent local coverage.

“Of 57 cannabis operators in the county, 33 reported their gross revenues for the third quarter and 20 reported zero revenues, indicating they were not harvesting from January through March, according to the CEO’s report to the board. Four operators did not file tax reports, officials said, and their county business licenses will not be renewed.” the Santa Barbara Independent also stated.