‘I Care,’ Grower Tells Environmental Inspector

The Sacramento Bee accompanied Department of Fish and Wildlife officials as they inspect several Humboldt County and Mendocino growers who agreed to work with them as part of a new program. They explained,

Amid the state’s prolonged drought, Gov. Jerry Brown last year approved $3 million in funding to dispatch oversight officers and environmental scientists to identify and inspect water-thirsty pot gardens in sensitive natural settings. Officials from the State Water Resources Control Board and Department of Fish and Wildlife so far have visited 150 sites with growers’ approval. They have issued instructions on water conservation and filed 50 notices of environmental violations.

The informative piece provides an engaging look at what happens during an inspection.

It was a different scene at the nearby farm of Duane McCall, 62, a retired property maintenance manager. A cannabis grower most of his life, McCall didn’t think authorities would give him trouble over his 35 plants.

“I’m a little anxious but not scared,” he said. “They’ve got much bigger fish to go after.”

McCall told inspectors he used drip irrigation to grow his plants and fertilized with sea bird guano. McIntee, the water board scientist, told McCall he would send him an email regarding minor environmental improvements. A Fish and Game warden, who checked out McCall’s storage tanks, told him: “We’re good on water use.”

McCall seemed flushed with affirmation.

“Cool,” he told the warden. “I’m from the ’60s, man. I care.”

A slideshow with the article provides multiple photos of different aspects of what the farmers who agreed to be inspected did to comply with environmental regulations.


Screengrab of one of the 28 images accompanying the article shows an unpermitted pond on Casey O’Neill’s farm near Laytonville.

Growers and those interested in the future of cannabis in this area should definitely read this. [Click here to go to the article.]



  • This was a good read.

  • Thanks for this important article.tips and improvements are so helpful.thanks kim your on it!

  • Thanks for this post. Gives me hope that the small scale medical marijuana framer will have a path to legitimate cultivation.

    • Yes. But unfortunately they will probably then be buried in the market by the large operations. Check out the upper limits on grow scenes proposed by Gavin Newsom in his statewide bill for tax and regulation (referred to as “legalization”). Many of us don’t like the CCVH model and it’s allowance of huge grows but Mr. Newsom’s allows much bigger. I’ve seen Mr. Newsom on TV (Bill Maher just last week) declaring he’s about keeping “Big Tobacco) out but his plan seems like a death warrant for small growers.Economically speaking.

      • A acre is more than a reasonable model.
        That area is a very low impact on a Enviromental level in the terms of agriculture.
        1000 1 acre farms would be much more sustainable than a free for all mom and pop operation, that’s what we have going on now. It also will be much easier to regulate correctly.
        Keeping demand up and supply down will ensure that a industry can be created with enough profit to actually function as a legitimate business.
        A million mom & pop grows would saturate the market taking away jobs from people that want to work for a living.
        This is about jobs, not stoners.

        • I personally think there is room for both. I do agree that having larger farms that are professionally operated will be what takes to make the market. I do not agree that one acre is a large farm, but its a start. That being said I also see a large role for small artisan farms to succeed. Look truthfully 2000sqft of any other ag crop is not even considered a small farm. Its truly a micro farm: its 1/20th of an acre. If someone wanted to grow that much corn or strawberries or tomatoes no one would bat an eye. The power of the small farmer comes in them organizing themselves to create co-ops. If you created a co-op of say 20, 30 or 40 farms, your co-op could have as much or more to offer the industry as any large grow. If these groups came to terms on product quality and independent testing as well as farm standards such as everyone in the co-op having a Clean Green certification and all members must grow organic product etc you could market that product to wholesaler. So with a little leg work and organization I see a real place for the small farmer in a legal framework.

      • The small growers are already being “buried” by the pressure of larger scale production. Much of the time in the eyes of the public and law enforcement there’s little distinction between the two. I am also wary of the upper limits, but it seems the upper tier grows will be harder to permit. Small scale production will always be a superior product and have a share of any market.

      • I understand that there are folks that are hesitant about the CCV-H proposal. Although I am in favor of the proposal I respect your right to your opinion. First of all we have to look at the current situation which we can probably agree is not the best. In 1996 the State voted to adopt Prop 215 allowing for the legal medical use of cannabis. This allowed for cultivation by people who had a doctors recommendation and also allowed for caregivers to cultivate for those with recommendations who could not otherwise do it themselves. Proposition 215 was very ambiguously drafted and left much interpretation into its verbiage. This led to what became a truly unregulated market. In 2011 the legislature tried to get a handle on this by adopting SB420 which gave clear guidelines on cultivation limits and allowed for collective cultivation with defined limits of 6 flowering plants and 12 immature plants per patient. This is truly the letter of the law. It did though give the power to local jurisdictions to amend those limits as they saw fit so long as the 6 and 12 limit was not breached. In Humboldt County our government choose to enact a 6 plant policy with a canopy limit of 100sqft per patient. So if a collective has say 100 members by law they would legally be able to cultivate 600 plants in an area of 10,000sqft. Using this model many farms began to expand when you add in the black market farms we arrive at where we are today.

        If we look at what has transpired in many other states we can see that the although very much in the spirit of compassionate use, the collective model is flawed and far to ambiguous. As we speak there are currently 3 bills working there way through the process in Sacramento. They include AB243, AB266 and SB643. These Bills although being gutted last week have made it through appropriations clearing the way for a vote this session. It seems as though the legislature has the desire to set up what would become a for profit, regulated and permitted medical cannabis framework.

        If you look at the current situation we have a large number of farms in operation in Humboldt County who although may well be within the cultivation guidelines of the current laws are operating with out any oversight or regulation in regards to land use ordinance, water use ordinance, zoning or building codes including un permitted structures and grading. Along with oversight on farming practices. What the CCV-H ordinance proposes to do is really a two pronged approach to getting a handle on the current situation.

        1. It addresses the environmental and water use situation. If a farm wants to get permitted for a cultivation license that farm will need to be up to County planning, zoning, and land use codes. The farm will need to be compliant with the recently adopted Water Board Tiered regulations, and in fact the language of the CCV-H draft follows the exact tiered system the NCRWB has adopted. Also as you have pointed out and has been documented as of Friday, some of the language coming out of the Governor’s office indicates that the State regulation will put on a cap on farms of 1 acre. So as you can see a 10,000sqft foot farm is a fraction of that.
        2. Although I am personally not of the mindset that cannabis will cure the County and States financial problems it would be a much needed shot in the arm. By providing product for what is shortly going to become a State wide market we can provide a great source of tax base along with job creation in a truly sustainable industry. When you add in to that equation the people not working directly in the industry but supporting it such as building contractors and material suppliers the amount of money generated would be a boon for the county.

        Also there seems to be a misconception that this will steam roll smaller farms. On the contrary it would allow those farms to operate legally with very little oversight. The mom and pop operations are a Humboldt legacy and part of the fabric of what we are. If passed the ordinance would allow for these folks cultivating 2000sqft and under to operate with a business license and the least regulated NCRWB permit.

        One thing I need to mention is there will be language in any bill out of Sacramento that will allow for counties and municipalities to enact its own policies and ordinance so long as they don’t breach State mandates. I for one understand that the land in most of the hills of our county as well as the watersheds are not set up to handle everybody having a one acre farm. That being said there is land within the county that could well be suited for that purpose. By having a process that puts a great deal of oversight at the 10,000sqft level and the most stringent oversight at levels that could reach up to as much as 4 times that much, it allows for more farms to get involved, get into compliance and truly become a huge asset to the county. We have a massive demand for medicinal cannabis right now in California and if we go to Adult Use in 2016 the demand will be even higher. If we truly want to keep “Big Cannabis” out of Humboldt and California we need to have a solid responsible ordinance in place that allows for many participants and allows for those farms that can be in compliance to be able to cultivate enough product to feed the demand so people don’t need to obtain it through other channels.

        By taking control of the situation now, with our own stakeholders (farmers, citizens, business owners, civic leaders and law enforcement) we can protect our Humboldt brand and create what will become a very green, responsible and sustainable industry.

        • Thank you, Old School! That was well-written and explained. I still believe that smaller scenes will be steamrolled but I respect your take on the situation. I understand mine is a minority opinion with no big money or political interest to help it out and so doomed. I’d like to just see a straight 25 or 50 plant maximum which would enable many small family scenes to flourish, with fines for exceeding those numbers or environmental crimes. I’m a dreamer…I base my opinion on the reasonable assumption that most counties will be influenced by their local agricultural interests and will go with the maximum state allowance (1 acre for now). There is a limited market for medical within CA and then there will also be the limited adult-use under “legalization”. That market will be flooded, prices will crash and smaller, under-capitalized growers will have to fold. Simple economics. However, we all know (but don’t discuss much) that the lion’s share of our local revenue comes from illegal out-of-state sales. That market will crash slower, the speed depending on certain factors. Will the weed grown on 1 acre farms be tracked from source-to-market? If not it will surreptitiously enter this more lucrative out-of-state market and well, that crash will be much quicker. In any case there is simply no future for nearly all existing small growers. Sure, a few will maintain their high-end contracts with certain connoisseur markets but I believe the quality of larger grows can be quite high and will impact even those markets. The large grows that will dominate the supply will be descended from our local mega-growers and other well-funded commercial interests that enter the weed scene strictly from a business perspective. They want to be set up in advance of national “legalization” when they can expand nationally and dominate the multi-billion dollar industry that was in large part created by the small hard-working growers of this area. I can’t support the marginalization of smaller family farms when we have the opportunity to create more support for them in what will be the most significant rural economic development in our times. I can’t support Gavin Newsom’s 1 acre grows and I cannot support CCV-H maximums for those reasons. I understand my position has little support and I expect to see the demise of the small family ganja grow in the next decade. Indeed, that seems to be what many people want! I am sad and confused by that but hey- most people won’t even stand up for themselves. All of this might be better for our economy in general and I’ll give you that but I am stuck on the local impacts and can’t sugar-coat the changes coming.

          • Your thoughts on the subject are based on what I perceive to come from a knowledgable process. I understand your fears. What you underestimate is the true scope of the both the medicinal as well as a future Adult Use market in California. Here in California we have a large per capita percentage of cannabis users and although not the highest in the country it is very large. Also our typical cannabis user has a very discriminating pallet. They know what quality cannabis is they demand it. In regards to demand it will be very high. Another factor that you fail to take into consideration is that the smaller farms would be under a lot less oversight and regulation. So it will be much easier to get permitted to run a small farm than a large one. I think all of the stakeholders in this game agree they don’t want to see, out of town carpet baggers come into Humboldt and control the market. By allowing the small farms to operate as such and putting the highest onus for regulation and oversight on the commercial farms we can help to keep this in check. Also one of the things that will happen with the passage of a state wide mandate is you will see that there will be certain aspects that will be separated. For example a farm will be able to sell wholesale. Point of sale or dispensary will not. Also dispensaries can choose to a “brew pub” model in which they would be allowed to cultivate cannabis they could only retail in their particular point of sale. This is know as vertical alignment. Also transportation of product will be handled by a third party contractor or a distributer. One point I think we do agree on is that large farms can indeed produce a high grade cannabis. That being said the product our artisans cultivate up here is some of if not the finest in the world. We are the Napa Valley of the cannabis world. That “Brand” if you will carries with it a huge upside in marketing potential statewide. So what it will take for the small farms is to come together as groups, co-ops or granges. If you think about 20 small farmers each coming together to form their brand within the Humboldt Brand you can see they would have as much weight in the industry as any one of the bigger farms and probably more. As you say a large farm can produce a quality product and truly one acre is not a large farm. But a farmer that cultivates a small artisanal crop will always have better product. If small farmers come together they can create standards and practices that would have to be followed in order to join co-op. For example only organic, best land use practice, independently tested product would be accepted. I think also that we can use our micro climates to our advantage in this. For example think about Napa and how each of the valleys is a region, i.e. the Stag’s Leap region. We could very easily have the same, Salmon Creek Region or Ettersburg region for example. I believe that then wholesalers would contract to these groups. These groups would then be able to distribute their products as a whole. So personally I see a true upside to the small farm. I also understand the law of supply and demand. One of the main points that all politicians that are in support of some form of legalization agree on is trying to dismantle the black market. If you are of this ilk, then there has to be enough product to supply the legal demand. If you don’t allow for larger farms then there can’t be enough supply to the legal market and the black market continues to flourish.

            I want to say I appreciate the mature and open dialogue we have started here. This is a polarizing issue and is an emotional one for those with skin in the game so to speak. In order to move forward we need to see and respect each others views. This way we can all become more educated and make our judgements based on a large scope of information.

          • I would like to see large scale commercial grows that can produce 100% pesticide/fungicide free, organic/probioticly grown cannabis. Some will, but not many. If the laws pertaining to pesticides/fungicides useage with cannabis follow suit of what Colorado has passed, many will have a hard time. Which is a great thing. We need top shelf organic cannabis to flood the market.

          • in reply to Old Schools remark about transportation being separate from the growers, that is an obvious loophole literally big enough to drive a very large well funded corporate truck thru…
            small growers will not be able to own or buy a transportation system but large corporations can and certainly will…their product goes straight down the road to the point of legitimate sale, your small farm product shipped at the same time will go thru Willets via Redding and Grants Pass and the truck will be parked in the hot sun for a few days just cause..and there will be engine problems…but whataya gonna do, they somehow are the only ones in town and the gubbmint makes you use them…

            That clause obviously benefits big money interests who have no problem whatsoever hiding their ownerships and interlocking directorships and all manner of murky bs to avoid regulation…and typical of what is called ‘regulatory capture’…just like they will make it happen that their guys are on the oversight commissions and their guys get elected.

            This corrupt crap would happen even if weed was only transported by the sheriff or the national guard.

            I think all or most politicians see ‘regulatory capture’ as a feature, not a bug…but that’s the dumb campaign finance system we are cursed with now.

          • I understand you are concerned about the corporate take over of the industry. I am too, so on that we can agree. This is the critical moment in time that those of us with skin in the game need to come together and make sure we have a say in how this is all going to proceed.

            In regards to your comment about transportation, I can’t share your dim outlook. To me it is another avenue for some entrepreneur to get involved in the burgeoning cannabis market. There will be many opportunities for people that want to take the time and spend the energy to grasp. Sure there will be hurdles but if you want something bad enough and are willing to really work for it then truly anything is possible. Fighting for a way of life that has persisted up here for over 40 years and survived an onslaught of deterrents for me is worth it. What choice do we have? If we don’t try to help guide our path in the future and just throw our hands up and say; “whats the use the corps are just going to take it over anyway” we have just given up.

        • Old School- I hope you are right! I’m finally accepting that you are right about getting with it. We don’t have a lot of political pull here. I have followed closely for many years the “legal” weed progress and I see the writing on the wall. Big changes are in the wind and many of us won’t make it in the future industry. I am preparing for the future and getting my ducks lined up even as I resent all the recent changes from the greenrusher mega-grows to the future government controls. Most of the country is happy for this form of so-called “legalization”. It is a sea change we can’t reverse. I think they are foolish to give it to Corporate Amerika but maybe everybody will end up growing their own. I don’t think we’ll get a better shot in CA than what they’re giving us now. I predict the large ag interests are focusing on the future federal “legalization” and plan on knocking us all down at that point! (No, not paranoid- I’ve seen stuff). Co-ops might be where many of us fit in and co-ops can hopefully muster up some firepower for that federal fight. See you in the trenches. Peace!

          • Jack Straw! We can share the women we can share the wine! Thanks for the uplifting and powerful message. I too have been following very closely the current tide and in fact I had an opportunity to be involved in it in IL where I did some consulting for a group. IL as I’m sure your aware has the most robust regulatory framework in place in the nation. After my experiences working there for a few months it really opened my eyes as to what is possible, an epiphany if you will. As a 27 year resident and land owner of Humboldt County I want to be able to see what has been built move forward. We have a proud tradition and legacy. There are many great people here that need our way of life to continue. Im not here to say things wont change, they will and it will be hard work for anyone that wants to stay involved, but in the end I truly think it will be worth the fight. We as the true stake holders need to come together now. I am starting a group called Farmers for Responsible Ordinance. A group of farmers committed to a sustainable future. We are hosting an event at the Mattole Grange on Sept 13th. There will be speakers there that will help to educate folks that are interested on upcoming issues both in the County and State, Prop 215/420 compliance as well as land use and code compliance. There will be more info for this in coming days along with info on how to contact and join FFRO! PLEASE!!!! mark your calendar now and plan on attending. The more we get done now and the more people we can educate and as you say “put our ducks in a row” the greater the foothold we will have when the inevitable day arrives!! Thanks Again!!!

  • I could not read the linked article as I have allready read too many Bee articles and am blocked out. Just the outline of someone with a small garden getting set down upon by a group that should be doing the work they have always done and not this whole new expansion of power seems Orwell creepy to me.
    I usually do not go with a run on sentence BTY.

    • When that happens, just clear your history and cookies. I have to do that several times a week, for the Bee and several other other newspapers and magazines.
      I use CCleaner as it is fast and easy.

  • other that the water use jibberjabber again…interesting these people would choose to expose themselves to civil and criminal actions after this visit…a ‘visit’ they probably had little choice to refuse.

    The article mentions water use : and makes the (false) equivalence to Almonds…and mentions almonds being scapegoated!!
    Oh just fkg spare me!
    That is such bullshit, almonds are not scapegoated, they are a fact and the facts show that the almond growers, in particular the now infamous Resnicks, have expanded their plantings beyond any reasonable limits especially considering the long predicted over pumping of the Delta and the Valley groundwater along with a long predicted drought. They are working the ‘refs’, the public, the governments, and the legal system as well as the politics …..and they have the money to do it.
    The almond growers, especially the one mentioned are said to have many people on their payroll doing precisely the kind of public relations churning and legal challenges that can result in just such a screed as this articles false equivalence between weed and almonds.

    And where better to salt the gold mine than in an article about weed, getting the poor picked on almond industry some sympathetic remarks….very pathetic, transparent, and insulting editorializing.
    “According to a recent Washington Post analysis, an outdoor marijuana grow requires a similar amount of water per acre of crop as the famously scapegoated almond. But the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws said its own study showed that, in terms of overall acreage, cannabis accounts for a minuscule share of California’s agricultural water consumption.”

    What horeshit, the author should be ashamed altho credit to him for quoting NORML….yet he also then quotes Scott Greacen (the often referenced author of the water use guess that has resulted in such wild estimates and mis and now even DIS information)..he quotes Greacen on another topic yet DIDN’T remark that Greacen’s water use guess (most likely the source of the quoted water usage remarks in the article) is highly and vigorously challenged and argued…and for that ‘oversight’ the author or his editor should perhaps be pelted with almonds should he show up in a cafe near you…
    Then again maybe he had an editor who insisted on getting the almond remark in there and maybe the author stuck in an interesting Greacen quote to show he was probably aware of Greacen’s contribution to the water usage discussion..but maybe was disallowed from direct discussion of it lest it shed maybe too much light on almond water usage. …but only they would know of course.
    Yeah yeah, maybe I am overthinking it, but when the Resnicks and the Westlands group are said to have many paid professional people working the PR machine/overthinking on their behalf nothing would surprise me to see something like this helicoptered into a weed article..but then again..I am from the 60’s and ‘I care’.

    Other than those ‘quibbles’ good stuff and very informative on many levels…thanks Kym.

  • Funny, I got called a “sixties relic” once for caring. Must be a thing.

    • I always think of James Earl Jones from Field of Dreams chasing away Kevin Costner with that old-fashioned bug sprayer, “You’re from the 60’s!” Spray, Mist, Spray…

    • I was called that myself and take it as a compliment.

      Thanks for the excellent article because the majority of us care.

    • We should make pride t-shirts or buttons or something, show these whippersnappers a thing or two.

  • LATimes today has an article about the Sonoma wine industry, water use and the tendency to have wineries become entertainment venues as well as a wine outlet, annoying neighbors and placing demands on county resources like rural roads and of course water. Weed was never mentioned…but it sure was interesting in the region has perhaps too quickly and even recklessly overdeveloped.

    ‘Anger ferments in wine country’

    scrolling is a ghost arrow popping up at the right side, but the whole article is there with pictures

    • I attended a presentation by a bunch of agency scientists in Boonville some twenty years ago. They made it abundantly clear that vineyards are the number one watershed destroyers of any other human activity… including large clearcuts and poorly-graded driveways.

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