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A committee that was formed to explore the idea of creating a cannabis trade association in Lompoc held its first meeting Monday night, at which organizers laid out some scenarios for how the potential organization could operate.

About 40 people attended the meeting, which was held in the Lompoc Public Library’s Grossman Gallery. The bulk of the hourlong discussion centered on a business plan presentation led by Matthew Dula, a cannabis industry consultant. The presentation focused on membership levels, finances and ways that cannabis business operators could benefit from having a united Lompoc Valley Cannabis Association.

Dula made clear early on that the idea for the association was still in the “extremely early stages.” He said that he and Joe A. Garcia, a Lompoc cannabis activist and founder of the Lompoc Valley Cannabis Coalition, developed the business plan just this month.

“I’m not here to tell you that this is done; I’m here to tell you that we are looking into this,” Dula said. “There’s a lot of things that need to be fine-tuned. There’s a lot of questions that need to be answered and there’s levels that need to be attained, in terms of who’s going to be on the board, what positions are there going to be (and) what level of involvement does that mean.”

The goal of the association would be to advocate on behalf of the cannabis industry within the city of Lompoc and the greater Santa Barbara County, providing a single unified voice rather than having several people act on their own. Dula said the hope is that if there is enough interest to move forward with a Lompoc Valley Cannabis Association, the organization would be “up and running, full speed” by August.

“The reason (for that timeline) is because there is a City Council election coming up,” he said, referring to the Nov. 6 general election, in which two Lompoc City Council seats and the mayor’s seat will be up for grabs. “With that election, there is a potential for things to sway in a noncannabis fashion. And if that occurs, then it doesn’t matter if you have a permit here or not. If your right to utilize that permit and run your business is revoked, it’s all for naught.

“So, now is the time to organize something like this and get it in place before the election cycle,” he said.

At Monday’s gathering, Dula revealed that the exploratory committee had already launched a Lompoc Valley Cannabis Association website, which can be accessed at lvca.wildapricot.org. The website contains most of the material covered at the meeting, and also allows people interested in the association to sign up for membership. It also has a forum through which members can discuss issues among themselves.

Although there are membership prices listed on the website — they cover three tiers and range in cost from $15 per year to $100 per year — those prices aren’t yet established and could be modified if the association is created and decides to change them. For now, people can sign up at any of the levels and not be charged.

Dula said after Monday’s presentation that he and Garcia would gauge the sign-ups on the website over the next three to four weeks to help them plot their next step, which could include another public meeting as soon as next month.

The different membership tiers, as currently proposed, would offer varying benefits.

At the lower level, members would have access to all association business meetings, which could primarily be conducted online. The middle level, at $50 per year, would offer that same access plus discounted access to association functions and advertising space on marketing materials, both in print and online.

The top level would provide all of that, as well as voting rights on various association issues, including presentations that are delivered to governing bodies, and the ability to be an elected board member.

The association would aid people from all throughout the industry, Dula noted, as well as those involved in ancillary industries, like construction. Lompoc's cannabis ordinance allows for retail dispensaries, commercial cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and testing.

Dula said during his presentation that the association’s only potential competition that has been identified so far is the Cannabis Business Council of Santa Barbara County, which he said hasn’t appeared to show much interest in what’s going on in Lompoc.

“Right now is the prime time to form something like this, because we have the unique advantage of being the first at this particular level of involvement and at this particular level of ability,” he said.

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Garcia opened Monday’s meeting by introducing Angela Bacca, a Lompoc native and freelance journalist who has covered a wide range of cannabis-related issues throughout the country.

Bacca, who now lives in Oregon, encouraged the attendees to stay engaged politically and not think that the fight for cannabis rights ended in California with the 2016 passage of Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

“Basically, when you stop paying attention to what’s going on with city government or the legislature involved, you’re gonna miss something and you’re gonna get screwed," she said. "So, all I have to say is, just make sure that you’re actively participating in these meetings and going to these meetings.”

Monday's forum ended with a question-and-answer session. Among the more significant concerns raised was whether the potential Lompoc Valley Cannabis Association would offer benefits to local industry operators that aren’t offered to outsiders or large corporations that might move into the area to open up shop.

Dula noted that those are things that would have to be hashed out by the association’s governing board.

Dula said after the meeting that he was excited to see where the idea goes from here.

“We want to utilize social media and the media channels to get that interest to see our membership rise and then say, ‘Look, this next meeting will include the articles of incorporation,’” he said. “Then we’ll just slowly build upon this. We’ve got a little bit of time — not much, but a little bit. If we chip away at major goals, we should have a solid association by (August). At least that’s what we’re hoping.”

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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