Beraud takes big campaign donations from controversial marijuana figures

January 21, 2020

Ellen Beraud


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. [Cal Coast Times]

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.


Does this mean I should support the other candidate in District 1, Stephanie Whateversky since she is anti cannabis and Peschong is pro cannabis?


Heck this one is just right, she hasn’t even been elected and she is taking bribes, hill won’t like her act at all, she’ll be cutting in on his action, we the taxpayers don’t need this one in office we’ve got one like that already and with luck he’ll be gone.

a view from the oaks

Wasn’t it Ms Beraud who led the charge for campaign finance reform in 2008? As we recall, she championed restricted donation size to deter special interest groups.

She must have forgotten….


Things are slow to change. The year is 2020; cannabis is legal. If you’re in the alcohol business (wine, beer, distilleries), the best thing you can do is to keep demonizing cannabis in any way you can, because cannabis will continue to take away your business. All sorts entities donate money to candidates; why are donations from cannabis-related businesses worse than any other businesses?


I will tell you why, as you do not understand. Other businesses are subject to state licensing requirements, but subjective evaluation for a local marijuana license is at the discretion of local jurisdictions, which ignore felony records in favor of political contributions to the SLO Progessives and their candidates, quid pro quo.


To be clear; the State issues the Cannabis license, the County controls the permitting.

I think you got your County peanut butter in the State’s chocolate.

Don’t worry the politicians will raise money from you on both sides of this issue.


Of course it’s perfectly fine that Arnold takes contributions from wineries, even wineries in Santa Barbara County, but don’t take marijuana money or you’re somehow a villain. I would submit that alcohol has done far more to damage our society than pot.


You really can’t see the difference? The entities and individuals mentioned have violated laws that regulate their industry. Please show us where the wineries or their owner/operators that support Arnold have done that. That is the point, they have not.


It is not about wine or cannabis. Ellen Beraud accepted money from people operating criminally. This would be like accepting a $30,000 donation from Kelly Gearhart after the goverment found he was ripping off seniors.

Helios Dayspring was sued successfully by an employee for failing to give breaks and follow employment law. A 15-year-old human trafficked victim died at one of his grows. He grows legally and illegally, meaning he is cheating on taxes.

He has a gang member managing his farm.

Please name one winery owner who has a known gang banger illegally managing their farm, that gave money to Debbie Arnold. You, can’t, because there is not one. Debbie Arnold has integrity.


Well, sheesh, then she should certainly give that money back. I doubt she has much of a chance anyway, considering Arnold has out raised her 2-1. I do wonder why Arnold has gotten $6,500 in contributions from entities in Texas, including an oil company.


I’m sorry, maybe you misunderstood. Did Debbie Arnold receive funds from known gang members working for an oil company? Did she receive funds from oil company executives that had been previously convicted of a crime? Did she receive campaign contributions from moonshiners posing as legitimate, legal, and upstanding alcohol producers? NO! she didn’t. I’m really, truly sorry that you so long for the “good ol’ days” when the marijuana industry operated outside of the law. You can’t both be in the legal cannabis business, and still be that bad-ass underground weed selling rebel that you fancied yourself as when you would spend all day locked in the dark basement of your Mom’s house with a bong. Weed is legal and legitimized now. If you were a convicted gang member, you’d never get a job driving a beer truck, let alone in a brewery or winery. So if the legal pot people want to be accepted as legitimate, then stop hiring dogs, and I assure you the fleas will go away.


Going “after” Peschong ?? I haven’t “gone after” anybody. Take it easy on that legal pot, it can make you paranoid.

a view from the oaks

Hmmm…. accusations of human trafficking, accusations of fraud and labor violations, accusations of money laundering, accusations of false property ownership on a cannabis cultivation application, holding fundraisers for city candidates and then receiving approval to open dispensaries in those cities——–Why would large sums of money donated to a supervisor candidate by Mr. Dayspring’s business partners and affiliates surprise anyone?

Jorge Estrada

Really, com-on, really? She took the money?


The SLO Democratic Party was taken over by a group of people led by pot growers, and they ran the establishment democrats out. And while there are some honest people in the pot industry, the worst of the lot are involved in the local Democratic Party leadership, like Cory Black, Nick Andre and Quinn Brady.

I bet Ellen Beraud will march in lockstep without considering or looking into the issues. Does it bother anyone that Scott Dayspring is a known criminal street gang member? Is this what some want for our community?

George Garrigues

I suppose it’s OK as long as the press is free to report it and actually does report it. Whether it means one should vote for this candidate is a separate issue.


With Helios Dayspring advertising with both The Tribune and the SLO New Times, I doubt they will show journalistic integrity and report these issues.

As for Ellen Beraud, candidates with integrity generally do not accept money from people found to be operating illegally. She has already said she wants to loosen the rules for pot growers for the tax revenue, but does she comprehend or care that if they are illegally growing pot, there is no tax revenue?


When are we going to get a comprehensive investigative article on this guy? I know about his Atascadero drug house armed invasion by big city gangsters, and his strange connections with Heidi Harmon and Adam Hill in obtaining coveted permits.