Dope Growers or Cannabis Cultivators?

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marijuana in the sunAn open letter from Uri Driscoll to the community with suggestions for cannabis cultivation regulation:

Humboldt County’s marijuana industry has operated in the shadows for decades, while at the same time becoming a larger and larger element in our community. It is good that the discussion as to how it would be regulated, if recreational use becomes legal, is coming forward. However the brash attempt to take over the discussion by the California Cannabis Voice Humboldt (CCVH) is simply not acceptable.
Of course it is going to be awkward stepping into the light after operating in the black market for all these years, but CCVH took a wrong turn in creating an ordinance that completely ignores relevant issues already brought up by the environmental community and others. Claiming “victory” was far too premature.
If we are to assume that 2016 brings a ballot measure that is successful in legalizing recreational use, there are many other factors that would need to be addressed in any relevant ordinance. Among them would be what could be allowed to be used to grow these plants that people are going to be inhaling into their lungs. Stricter than organic standards should to be set solidly in place and be palatable to the end user. No pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and certain chemical fertilizers, should be allowed if we are going to consider our Humboldt brand marijuana any better than tobacco.
Also missing from the proposed ordinance is any way to pay for all the regulation and enforcement. While it was easy to recruit a lot of tax free dollars for their cause, CCVH’s efforts would have seemed more sincere if there was that kind of money put towards the huge costs associated with regulating farms and the cleanup of abandoned grows.
Certainly the prospect of turning timber lands into patchwork grow sites needs to be further addressed as EPIC director Natalynne DeLapp and others have mentioned. Forest soils unsuitable for marijuana cultivation has led to massive transport of topsoil from sometimes hundreds of miles away. The diverting of scant water from creeks to ridgetops in order to feed thirsty plants is far from green as we all know.
If indeed there is to be a need for large amounts of marijuana to be grown in Humboldt County, perhaps the Samoa industrial site is most suited. The county and/or the Harbor district could develop a co-op type facility where Humboldt residents could rent an area that has been converted into a greenhouse and share processing and growing equipment. Regulations and security would be rather simple to enforce. While not maybe a coastal dependent industry, it is a heavily water dependent industry and there is plenty available that is not being diverted from streams. Fox Farm is already making soils nearby and growers, excuse me cultivators, should even be able to utilize the organic byproduct from the aquaculture enterprise that may also be developed on the old industrial site.
Coastal zone agriculture is an allowable use as is certain industry. This is where it would need to be determined whether it is agriculture or industry or some how both.
The Humboldt “brand” could evolve from the mountain top stripping, stream water robbing, pesticide poisoning, cartel controlled dope into a converted industrial wasteland, permaculture, cooperatively produced, better than organic cannabis.
The multiple research aspects of such a facility could be a very valuable component worth developing as well.
High cannabinoid, low THC strains being developed for medicinal purposes would fall under different classifications as would “personal“ gardens of under say 5 plants per household per year.
If dope growers actually do want to evolve into cannabis cultivators they may want to listen to what the rest of the community has to say.


  • Uri, what did you think of the tax ordinance we unveiled yesterday? Fees are only allowed in cali for cost recovery, and are generally set administratively as opposed to via ordinance. I handed the Supes a copy of the county fee chart, which should now be in the public record (it’s also on the planning department webpage).

    Thanks for coming to the table. Looking forward to seeing you again soon! -Luke

    • Luke,
      I have not had a chance to look over the tax schedule and my time is a little tight right now.
      The problems that need to be addressed and as you saw have a lot of emotion behind them, is the sometimes radical disturbance of ecosystems. Ridge tops are not suitable mega grow sites. Poor soils water issues etc. Suggesting that these continue with all the TPZ issues is going be a problem.
      I get why people want to live in the country but a lot of these mega growers are crapping in their (and their neighbors) nest.
      As I said to you and meant it, you are a brave man to step up but you just landed on a simmering bed of hot coals. Now comes the hammer and anvil time.

  • First off, why should cannabis be regulated more than any other crop?
    Second, Fox farm doesn’t make soil, they make nitrified sawdust. The manufacturing of their “soil” is in no way environmentally friendly, quite the contrary in fact.
    Third, Samoa, really? Get a clue bud. However, unfortunately, the county is presently strongly considering converting a very large industrial warehouse space on the Samoa peninsula into commercial sized INDOOR grow operation space. The amount of energy used to cultivate cannabis indoors creates a HUGE carbon footprint.

    • Because marijuana is inhaled it should have very strict growing standards.
      Maybe I spoke too favorably of Fox Farm. I used to use their soil for my vegies but I make my own soil/compost now. The point was that without the need to truck soil to a mountain top it would lessen the carbon footprint considerably.
      Biomass electric and heat generation and a giant water pipe full of unused water is already happening on the peninsula that would lessen the use of generators to pump water from tributaries.
      Think of the innovation that could take place by collaborating with fellow cultivators and perhaps even some of the University brains.

  • Where is the discussion of indoor grows???? Many of the enviro groups are located in no hum now, are they not looking at indoor as its ‘in their backyard’ ? I am very worried about large industrial warehouse grows that will pay less in electricity than family homes, like what has happened in the bay area with warehouse grows. Unfortunately most indoor scenes use very toxic&illegal sprays and fertilizers. I am sure some outdoor do too, but everyone I know does organic,or as close as possible, outdoors. Please enviros look at indoor, electricity is generated thru Water and other toxic things. Why aren’t environs tryin to get our water back from potter valley and why aren’t they concerned about the potential impact of ag land in sonoma and all along the 5 turning into real mega grows and sucking our water to do it?????

  • if and when weed leaves these ‘ag’ lands will there then be a rush of gentlemen vintners to the hills on these ‘ag’ parcels..
    ‘I mean, gosh Mick, all the bulldozin’s already done!
    And there’s a nice plywood shack I could fix up, maybe I nice 12,000 sq ft house, barns, horses, rentals for the workers…the driveway could use a little work, those trees block my view, but other than that…and weeds! everywhere…spray them puppies! Pretty soon it can look just like my Orange County ranchette…but now it’s a farmette. I’m a farmer.

    If I was a TPZ would-be developer and or real estate salesman I sure would want more TPZ lands to buy and sell.

    • good discussion

      Ummm isn’t that why ccvh is trying to get some kind of regs in place now?
      The ordinance allows for amendments so if there’s missing pieces, lets draft some language to present to the board and not try to halt the process entirely.
      Really why would a grower want to invest in tpz land that requires major overhead with garden/water development when a huge chunk of CA is already ag land. The vineyards were fruit&nut trees before so whats to stop the potential transition of grape to pot? I would be buying land on the 5 and in Sonoma, already rated ag, basically plow and plant. As odd as it sounds, pot will be industry and within our economic structure in this country, having low overhead is often essential to business success. That is why registered farmers pay less for water than households, and on the industry side the big warehouse grows often get the electrical tier for business, paying a dramatically different electrical rate than households.

      • That land on the five and all that prime farm land in the valley will be full of hemp, hemp is suitable for large scale machine farming, hemp will bring industry back to the U.S. all that plastic stuff from overseas could be produced here

        • That would be wonderful!!
          Without the heavy pesticide spraying and poor water management in that area, that is.
          It doesnt seem like any of those companies will come back here as, again, low overhead is essential.
          Thats why most US companies manufacture in China. Even some of our little local companies have to manufacture their items in China to be able to compete in what is a quickly disappearing open market. Hopefully they are finding factories that are not sweatshops to use, but it is still jobs lost here and a tremendous carbon footprint. A majority of the cheap little glass pipes in local head shops are made in china, for example.
          Unless the government offers subsidies or they use only prison labor (which I believe is still $.16/hr & is much closer to what most chinese workers make) , there is no way they will pay a fair wage here nor comply with ‘expensive’ environmental regulations. Hemp is grown & manufactured all over the world already, worth looking up. It is one market we are very behind in, especially compared to Canada, Europe, & China. Tends to feeds the theory that big oil and big pharmaceuticals are really running our country!
          So where’s the economic incentive to convert land for a crop already being grown in mass around the world with processing plants already up and running? Anyone who could afford a farm on the 5 could probably buy a chinese hemp co. for less, or already has but does not sell in the US yet. Major corporations took out patents on hemp, pot, etc many years ago. With nafta ( and now the trade agreement with china, etc) may force us to have to carry this less expensive and most likely more toxic type of hemp (&female buds too for that matter if its legalized federally). Like many things made in china, it will be harder for ecologically friendly hemp farms to compete.
          Hemp is said to average $200-400/acre. Think what a 1/4acre of female plants would yield, if done well, monetarily without having to build a processing facility. Really, which is worse environmentally?
          The average acreage of a farm in CA is 311. It makes a 1/4 acre farm seem pretty miniscule, no matter how you feel about pot. It will most likely be rated ag for the state so economically we will need a niche market like Napa wine to keep our economy healthy. I see more people leaving here than coming here to grow pot. Many indoor growers moved towards the cities when their product price fell as they could do the same thing in a city and potentially pay less electrical while being closer to their buyers, thus reducing their overhead by
          reducing or cutting out their middlemen. I bet once legalization happens and the economic incentives become apparent, we will hear our timber companies singing a different tune. They are the only ones with potential processing facilities for hemp. I hope enviros are working to limit hemp farms on tpz land as well!!! Who would want to grow herb on those nasty hillsides covered with herbicides mixed with diesel fuel as a delivery agent.
          I doubt that most local timber land would pass EPA standards for croplands anyway.

  • Is there a place to find the document that the enviros want put into the ordinance? What size limits are they thinking and how will that work when pot is a state listed ag product? Will all this ordinance bickering be a big waste of resources if state ag regs superceded the ordinance anyway? I dont think their idea of taxing spring and ground water in rural areas will work. I have not seen any good examples of grows or info on how to be a good labd steward, just a lot of ‘no’s’ from the enviro side. The pamphlets made by trees foundation, I think, that showed what poisons are awful, water storage, etc were one of the best things to come out in years. Plus it would seem good to fight the timber practice of poisoning trees of no value to them (like oak) & then they die standing, basically a huge tall match in the forest, making fire danger even worse. The amount of water and chemicals needed in fires goes way above any mega grow. And why does cal-trans get to use water tenders to keep dust down on their willits project? (Hint hint enviros mayb take on some of these issues instead of just targeting growers and you may see more support)

  • What is the long term goal with legalization here in humboldt county?
    If it’s to preserve our economy and create a legal industry that will create jobs and tax revenue, none of these ideas will support that goal.
    Cannabis needs to be regulated in our county like any other AG commodity using existing zoning and code enforcement laws with no limit on square footage or plant numbers. We already have land use ordinances, water permitting and grading/engineering laws. Comercial argriculture of canabis should be conducted on AG zoned land with no exceptions.
    Allow the state to work out distribution and sale regulations that will connect farmers with wholesalers thru the proper legal framework.
    There needs to be private peer reviewed Enviromental studies conducted to prove that any of these allegations towards the small scale cultivation of canabis are even valid.
    As of right now it’s all speculation and obvious propaganda.
    If the local economy is at stake here I’d say it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

    • Can you please explain why cannabis should not be allowed on TPZ land when, as far as I understand, commercial agriculture, including vineyards, is considered a compatible use in those zones? Isn’t that an irrational double standard?

  • Curious, as mentioned above, what do the ccvh guys think will happen after 2016 when the state assigns permits to the limited number of farmers who are selected? To think that we have 5000 grow sites according the sheriff, who most of whom would like to come into compliance through the ccvh voter initiative…. That the state will just say sure we’ll grandfather you all in since the county of Humboldt says your ok? Haha yeah right. How many permits is ca going to give out for production? Even if only half of the sites in Humboldt applied, that’s 2500… Then they are gonna say screw you to the rest of the counties?? (Keeping in mind those are the counties with the money people and power) I just don’t see this working out the way everyone is hoping. I think everyone on the ccvh train wants this to work… But I just feel like I must be missing part of this? (Like the part when the governor assured the ccvh guys or supes that a voter initiative would get all the Humboldt farmers a leg up on the competition for permits?

    • Luke? What say you.. please inform me so I can feel good about standing behind your cause

      • Fred,

        The issue of “license caps” (AKA, a hard limit on the # of total licenses issued) has been a major part in our decision to pursue this ordinance.

        Right now we are on a trajectory for there to be no license caps, which is a major public policy accomplishment. There are very real pragmatic issues involved with license caps… right now the CA dispensary system is consuming 1-2m pounds a year of cannabis (I think it’s about 1.875m).

        The future involves licensed farms, selling to licensed distributors, who sell to licensed dispensaries. If there isn’t enough cannabis (medical or Adult Use) coming from licensed farm, the whole system falls apart. So, as a pragmatic issue, farms need to get into the system for it to work. The hope is to get farms online on the local level ASAP, stopping the environmental damage, funding the fixing of the damage, and setting the stage for them to get into the state system.

        If enough farms don’t come into compliance, it will open the doors to the megagrows, since there will be a supply shortfall. Once the megagrows are allowed to come online (we can still stop them!!!), we’re in a lot of trouble up here.

  • Luke thank you for the response. You are a great face for the organization. Can you site some articles or links that support your statement “right now we are on trajectory of no license caps”? Is this what Newsome’s group is recommending? Or just what you guys think would be best for Humboldt. And… in a free market if a “no license cap” system comes into play, what mechanism has been mentioned to keep large scale corporate farms out of the market place? A limit on size of garden space, but no limit on number of farms?

    And for what it’s worth I am not trying to argue with you and your group, just looking for clarification. Keep fighting the good fight!

  • Uri can kiss my behind if he thinks he can tell someone else how to live.
    Uri never grew a cannabis plant obviously or he wouldn’t have suggested a coastal area.
    Uri, wineries and ag dumped over a 100 million pounds of pesticides, I know you’re so busy you don’t have time to read fact but when you do look at this
    Uri, the emerald triangle was turned to shit by overharvesting timber and timber activities silting streams.

  • Uri, some reading for you.
    From Will Parrish
    Regarding Big Timber Pesticide Use in your area.

    Dear mailing list,

    What, exactly, is the largest private owner of coastal redwood forest *ever* up to on its 227,000 acres of Mendocino County land (in other words, 10 percent of all private land in this county)?** I’ve sought to find out. I compiled data on every timber harvest plan that Mendocino Redwood Co. (MRC) filed with Cal Fire between 1998 and 2012, as well as data (courtesy of a friend, Mike Kalantarian) on the company’s herbicide use in the past three years.

    Among other things, this study illustrates that MRC is still using large amounts of the herbicide Garlon (which was a big source of controversy here in Mendo when Louisiana-Pacific was using it 20 years ago), in addition to Imazapyr and Glyphosate (aka Round-Up). Also, MRC historically has conducted roughly equal amounts of “even-aged” (ie, clear-cutting, seed tree harvesting, etc.) and “un-even aged” (selection, transition, etc.) forms of harvesting. They have phased out “traditional clear-cutting,” but the data overwhelmingly suggests that they’ve replaced it with a technique called “variable retention,” which is known to some foresters colloquially as “fuzzy clear-cutting.” Thanks again to Mike for providing the herbicide data.

    Here is the study:

    KPFA’s morning public affairs show, UpFront, features a 25 minutes-or-so interview with me last week regarding the wine industry’s harmful effects on watersheds. I haven’t listened to it, because I have a hard time listening to my radio appearances, but I’ve heard it was pretty alright. Here’s the URL for the archive: Four years ago, I did a full hour interview on this topic for the Pacifica Network’s truly excellent Against the Grain program, which provides an in-depth platform for radical and unconventional ideas regarding politics and society to be explored on the airwaves. Unfortunately, the audio is no longer available, but here it was:

    As you can see in this Santa Rosa Press Democrat article [], opposition to the wine industry’s degradation of mountains, streams, and forests in the Sonoma County portions of the Russian River watershed is mounting, sparked by the State Water Resources Control Board’s curtailment of water use for lawns but not for the wine industry in four creek watersheds that have practically no lawns but are being ravaged by a proliferation of grape-based alcohol plantation farming and industrial wine production. The Press Dem’s original headline for the online version of this article was something along the lines of “Residents Decry Wine Water Use,” but then it was changed to the more vague, less accurate, and therefore more politically palatable title “Rural Residents Decry Water Restrictions.”

    In case you missed them, I also reported in recent pieces on an employee boycott that may be brewing at Mendocino Redwood Co. [] and Mendo & Humboldt forests’ dominance of the forest portion of California’s cap-and-trade program [].

    For those living in the Bay Area, I’ll have the cover story in the edition of the East Bay Express that comes out Wednesday concerning California’s failed water rights system.

    Feel free to let me know if you prefer not to continue receiving these e-mails. And, if you’re interested in donating to support my work, please let me know.

    Best wishes,

    ** Mendocino Redwood Co. and Humboldt Redwood Co., which are essentially the same company, own roughly 440,000 acres of land, most of which is coastal redwood forestland.

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