By KAREN VELIE
San Luis Obispo County Supervisor candidate Ellen Beraud recently accepted $36,700 from donors affiliated with one marijuana business owner facing an abatement action by SLO County and another being sued by the state over marijuana taxes. The contributions, which include the largest received from a single donor during the campaign, raise questions about her ability to remain objective on marijuana and hemp issues.
Four of her donors are associated with marijuana kingpin Helios Dayspring.
William Szymczak donated $23,000 and Ye Rustic Inn (President Susan Wood) donated $1,700 to Beraud’s campaign on Jan. 13. Both Szymczak and Wood are partners of Dayspring in the cannabis industry in SLO County.
Nicholas Andre donated $1,000. Andre is a partner of Dayspring in a San Luis Obispo pot shop and an employee of Dayspring’s Natural Healing Center in Grover Beach.
On March 22, 2019, the county filed an abatement notice with the clerk recorder over Dayspring’s “unlawful cultivation” of marijuana.
Dayspring also faces problems over his brother’s employment. Scott Dayspring said he has worked for five years at his brother’s grows.
Scott Dayspring is a convicted felon who was sentenced to five years in prison for assault with a deadly weapon with an enhancement for gang involvement. The state does not permit felons to work in the cannabis industry.
Public records show Beraud’s campaign accepted $10,000 from Beachwood Industries, whose president is Brett Vapnek. Vapnek is also the owner of Nipomo Ag, a marijuana cultivation business.
Late last year, the California Department of Food and Agriculture filed a lawsuit against Vapnek for processing cannabis illegally in Nipomo and depriving the state “of licensing fees and tax revenue.”
“By engaging in unlicensed commercial cannabis activity, defendants placed unregulated cannabis into the cannabis market, thereby causing economic harm to California’s legal commercial cannabis industry and supporting the illegal cannabis market,” according to the lawsuit. “Defendants’ distribution and sale of illegal products that are potentially untested … create grave public health and safety risks to Californians.”
Beraud is a member of the SLO County Progressives; she served as a GO Team leader in 2018.
During the past five years, consultants for and owners of marijuana businesses have secured multiple leadership roles on the SLO County Democratic Central Committee and the SLO County Progressives, including Andre who currently serves as co-chair of both organizations.