Calaveras County Sheriff Rick DiBasilio wants a county ban on commercial cannabis cultivation but said he will follow the direction either of the Board of Supervisors’ urgency ordinance or a voter-approved Measure D, should it pass in November.
In a public access television interview Wednesday, DiBasilio said his biggest challenge – one that affects general public safety as well as cannabis enforcement – is the cut in funding and resources for the Sheriff’s Office since the recession.
“In 2003 we had 60 deputies and even then, it wasn’t enough,” he said. The Sheriff’s Office currently has 44 officers, but low pay relative to surrounding counties attracts them to move away from Calaveras, he said.
DiBasilio said his most important duty is to provide protection and law enforcement for the people of Calaveras County. He said that enforcement of the urgency ordinance passed by the board in May – just seven days after he was appointed sheriff – is important, but just one requirement of the job.
“There are many other requirements for my deputies,” he said. “We have to protect against burglary, violent crime; we have to provide officers to the courts – the list is quite long.”
Measure D is a citizen’s initiative to allow but regulate cannabis production in Calaveras that has been certified for the November ballot.
DiBasilio said he is opposed to Measure D and also questions the current urgency ordinance that allows commercial farming of medicinal cannabis, mainly because they both limit his ability to do background checks, not only on the registrants but on the workers at the farms.
“Sometimes my deputies will go to a grow and ask for the registrant, but that person is not around. What we find that many of these guys are absent, either because they live elsewhere or because they are leasing. But I can’t do background checks on the workers,” DiBasilio said.
He explained that some farms have workers carrying firearms to provide protection for a valuable cannabis crops. He said he is already uncomfortable sending his officers to area where people are armed. The situation is made worse, he added, if there is a convicted felon working on the farm who is carrying a firearm.
“Felons can’t have firearms. If that happens, well, we have a problem,” he said. He wants to be able to do background checks on all of a grower’s employees. He said Measure D does not provide for that depth of checking.
Calaveras Enterprise Editor Dana Nichols, who was interviewing the sheriff for Calaveras Public Access Television’s Inside View, suggested that there might be a way for the Board of Supervisors to adopt an ordinance that tied background checks of all cannabis farm employees to the business license permitting process. DiBasilio said that while he was unfamiliar with the legality of the idea, he would be willing to review it.