So, You Want to Grow Marijuana Legally? Pros and Cons of the New Humboldt County Form

hug a grower

Cannabis farmer in his garden circa 2009.

As Humboldt County government grapples with changing California marijuana laws, officials are creating several strategies in an attempt to help the  local community and its economy survive and hopefully thrive. One path Supervisors and the Planning Department are working on is the Commercial Cannabis Activity Registration form [CCAR or Registry]. The form attempts to surf one of the waves created by the new state medical marijuana laws.

CCAR, said Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell, has a “dual purpose” from local government’s perspective. “People in urban areas will be very anxious” to establish marijuana farms and businesses under the new state laws. “We’ve got to at least make it possible for people who are interested in making a business in Humboldt County to do so,” she said.  In addition, she explained, County government is hoping the form will “help us understand the level of interest in the different kinds of licenses.”

The new state laws offer what some call a “grandfathering clause.” Fennel explained, “In the future you will need a business license to cultivate marijuana for sale.” When the newly forming Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation eventually gives out licenses, preference will be given to businesses existing before January 1, 2016 that are in “good standing” in their county, she said.

Now, no one is clear what “good standing” actually means.  Basically, County and State government are trying to figure that out. But, explained Fennell, the way she understands it, “For the purposes of the state, if someone is on our registry, they are in good standing.” The registry effectively is a placeholder for the grower. It provides documentation to later allow a cannabis farmer or business to attempt to prove to the State government that they were conducting a business in good standing by January 1, 2016. However, in order to keep that place, they will have to comply with what Humboldt County government later decides constitutes “good standing.”

“The Sheriff, District Attorney and Environmental Health will give their input on what good standing means,” said Fennell.

In addition, Steve Lazar of the Humboldt County Planning Department cautions, “The State will ultimately be deciding if [the CCAR] is sufficient documentation.”

“A lot of farmers have been pretty squeamish,” said Kristin Nevedal a marijuana policy specialist who lives locally. But, Nevedal believes, ultimately the CCAR is worth the risk. “At some point we are going to have to move from the black to white market,” she said. “There needs to be some sort of good faith between our farmers and our county government.”

In other words, cannabis farmers and businesses are being offered a chance to become legal and be ready for the probable changes in tomorrow’s marijuana marketplace. But it’s a gamble–a gamble that by putting their names, addresses and size of operation onto a form and handing it into the Humboldt County Government, they will be able to meet the requirements now being decided and that the State will agree that CCAR is proof that they were in good standing.

In addition, they have to be concerned that they don’t end up the subject of a federal prosecution.

The latest Commercial Cannabis Activity Registration form offered by Humboldt County (there have been several versions) makes one of those possibilities clear. The form states in the first paragraph, “The information that you provide in this application may be released as required by law, judicial order, or subpoena, and could be used in a federal criminal prosecution.”

Steve Lazar from the Humboldt County Planning Department believes however that with the changing political landscape, state or federal attempt to use the personal information compiled from CCAR is unlikely. He said, “It is 2015. The cannabis landscape has changed.”

Kristin Nevedal pointed out that though the Federal government demanded the names of marijuana growers involved in Mendocino County’s Ziptie program, the names were redacted from the information passed on. And, that was many years ago. She, too, thinks it unlikely that the information on the list would be requested.

Another possible problem not mentioned on the form is that the information could be obtained with a public records request. For instance, in 2008, the North Coast Journal filed a public records request and obtained the names of all the Concealed Weapons Permit holders in Humboldt County. The names were then published on its cover. Conceivably, a publication or an activist group might demand the names of those who sign the Commercial Cannabis Activity Registration form.

Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell said that Humboldt County is trying to protect those who sign the form. “People should not worry about their names being given out,” said she. “We’re working on making sure they are protected.”

Lazar states that those who submit their information are “protected because of the confidential nature.” He explained that the new state laws keep “privacy components in mind.”

Nevedal pointed out, “People are being registered as cultivators in other states and in the vast majority of cases the sky isn’t falling on their heads. We are not in the same situation that we have been in the past.” She said that the overall political climate has become less aggressive towards medical marijuana programs. She thinks CCAR is a good program. “I would encourage [medical marijuana farmers] to register and move forward with the licensing processing.”

She thinks that law enforcement would be more likely to focus upon marijuana growers who are not making any effort to comply then on farmers who are trying to work within the law. “Then law enforcement can focus on clearly illicit grows,” she said.

While some local attorneys are reportedly encouraging their clients to sign up–the sooner, the better—Mark Harris, an attorney based in Arcata, is concerned about issues with CCAR. He stated,  “While I have no doubt the County is working in good faith towards a model that will enable local farmers to obtain provisional licenses, there is no discernible reason why a farmer would submit the present application form at this time.”

Because there is an extended time in which cannabis related operations can fill out the form, Harris said he is advising his clients to “wait until the County addresses the good standing issue first.” The farmers, he said, then could directly address whatever the requirements are.

Supervisor Fennell states that the guidelines for good standing will be out soon. “When we passed this, we gave 30 days for them [to be created],” she said.

Harris has further concerns. He pointed out, “[T]he application in its current form requires extremely sensitive and private personal information be provided. It is evident that such information may be readily obtainable via Public Records Act request and also by local, state and federal agencies into the future. This unfortunate fact creates a scenario where the applicant’s information may be obtained for purposes relating to criminal prosecution, potential civil liability or simply for informational purposes unrelated to the County’s immediate and laudable goal of assessing community interest.”

On the other hand, Fennell said she spoke to County Counsel and she said, “We are very cognizant of people’s concern….If we get a [Public Records Act request,] we would only be giving general locations. I don’t think we will be providing any specific records….It goes to personal safety which is part of state law.”

Harris is hopeful that the CCAR form will be changed again to further protect the cannabis growers and business owners. He stated, “We anticipate a modified version of the registration application may be able to address these concerns.”

Nonetheless, many farmers and business owners are excited about CCAR already. “I talked with the planning department the day after we passed it and they were already being swamped. I’ve seen a great deal of enthusiasm,” said Supervisor Fennel.”

Things to know:

  • An online version of the Commercial Cannabis Activity Registration form is available to be printed here. It can be filled out, signed, and returned to the Humboldt County Planning Department by July 31, 2016.
  • Steve Lazar from the Planning Department said that there will be no preference given for those who apply earlier than others.


Note: Mark Harris the attorney quoted in this article is an advertiser on this site.



  • Anyone, regardless of the size of property they live on, can brew beer. Any citizen should be able to grow a couple plants in their yard, for their own use.

    • Oregon just did that. In Washington the state butt sniffers are lobbying to remove medical now they have state permits.

      California will go corporate model and CONgress is talking about a weed tax to fight ISIS.

      Either way, Kentucky grows the best and exports it to Cuba. They will never catch John Boone and people in Kentucky don’t screw up their land either.

  • While the federal government is currently prohibited from enforcing federal marijuana laws against people in compliance with laws in states with medical and recreational legalization, that prohibition is not permanent. So there’s a risk some future prohibitionist zealot could force the county to give up all the information just like US Attorney Melinda Hagg did with Mendocino county’s zip tie program. Hagg may be gone, but the laws are still on the books and it ain’t over until they’re officially repealed.

    I really appreciate the work the County government and the NGOs are doing to transition the industry, but every commercial grower has to decide whether another deadbeat Republican Congress under some unknown president will protect you with legislation. It’s not risk-free.

  • Understandably folks are concerned. Those of us that have lived and worked in here for many years have seen more than our fair share of law enforcement. Some of which was downright scary at times. Obviously we are living in a different time than we were 30 years ago when CAMP and MET ruled our summer skies. It is my belief that “the horse is out of the barn”. As of Jan 1, 2016 we have a law in place via the State of CA that will in its completion regulate and monetize Medical Cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, process, and sales. Although at times my own belief in our local government and our federal government has wained, I am of the belief that this time our BOS is getting it right. I for one am happy to come out of the shadows of yesteryear. I proudly turned in my pre registration form and I hope when the dust settles I will be able to proudly display not only a Humboldt County License but a State of California one as well.

    • Anyone can be a almond Farmer. Why would I need a license for a herb? You people are just silly good luck with that.

      • Taxation Without Representation

        Not only that , but cannabis cultivators must file for a special water discharge and use permit, which no other industry has specific to there industry.

    • There’s always going to be more stupid than smart people. OldSchool is one of the smart ones!

    • You will be buried by the large, corporate grows that are about to explode. Do you really think you have the $$$ to keep up with those very deep pockets and their lobbyists, lawyers and insurance agents? I am old school also and will continue to grow and sell to my connections that I have developed over 30 years. You will be required to pay many fees that feed paper-pushers and office drones that I will not. You will be required to sell to a few licensed distributors within the regulated California market which will be oversaturated. While competing with HUGE operations. Good luck with all that! In 10 years we will both be out of business but you will have the pride of lining the pockets of the bureaucrats while I will be earmarking my funds for my future…the future where this industry has been absorbed by corporate Amerika and the workers are paid sub-living wages. I hope your pride is worth it. Of course, the only solution to ensure your survival will be a full war on the unlicensed grows. Your “pride” in being regulated may lead you to morally support these raids (indeed, your fees will be financing them). Then, when the unlicensed grows have been suppressed…the big licensed fish will feed on the smaller licensed fish. Your “pride” will probably allow you to rationalize this also. When your soul has been completely sold and compromised and the industry is safely absorbed into Babylon’s corporate profit model…your “pride” will be fulfilled.

      • I respect what your saying and I do have some moral reservations regarding the issues of continued raids on un licensed farmers. Yes the fees that I will pay will in at least a portion will go to to just that.
        The way I see it is this: The law is here. We will more than likely have adult use in 2016. After looking at and researching the new laws, the State has done a good job (in my mind) of setting limits on the number and types licenses people can hold. Additionally the California market will dwarf the rest of nation in consumers. I have been in this game since I was 17 when I put my first seeds in the dirt. I am a farmer. For better or worse. For me at least for a the latter portion of my life I will welcome not having to worry about prosecution. If it leads me the poor house so be it. Better than the Big House.

      • In the future drones full of mail pollen will attack the large corporate outdoor grows. Other large corporate grows will attack each other. It will be an all out war. That is when we take over the market they have created as there crops fail. Movie or reality?

      • For Real, I have never posted on here but I have to now. That commentary was poetic and spot MTFing on from beginning to end.

      • you are on the mark my friend
        great analysis.

    • Lost Croat Outburst

      I hear you, bro’. I can hardly believe that after all these decades, I might live to see some resolution and finally come out of the closet. Still leery about parcel numbers on an accessible document.

    • Its all a farce, unless you live in a permitted home on a couple of acres with a well RUN.
      For the hills folks it is a box canyon you can not get out of. Sure they will take your money for some license but it won’t stop there. Unpermitted structures you better deal with that too. Unpermitted septic you better deal with that too. Black poly in the creek or spring ooops another 2 permits. So go ahead legal up pay your fines and fees but youll never be compliant. Everyone will have their hand out and once you pay they will want more and more. Environmentally conscious OUTLAW for life. Good Luck!

  • As an outsider, I wonder WHY the ‘triangle will continue to have growing operations in the same numbers after recreational legality. Wouldn’t be cheaper to have your mega grows located in some big warehouse off of I-5? Check out for generic names related to the production and extraction niches.

  • Sounds like good standing is more like good information. You give them all your personal information and growing intentions so that when they make you jump through a million hoops and want you to pay hundreds of thousands to establish your business of which you can’t so you politely decline and they keep the good intell for future flyovers. Ahem, don’t think I’d like to be the first one out that gate

  • Why would anyone think someone growing weed for 20 years would sigh up to pay taxes this misguided thinking. When the price of weed drops they will supplement their income with hash and meth.

    best thing would be to legalize weed and encourage everyone to grow their own ,
    this would take all the crime and we would see the home invasions and death rate drop.

    Medical use is probably less then 1% of the weed grown in the county , most of it is exported you see hundreds of pound bust all over the country from weed coming from Humboldt. everyone who lives her knows or is related to people growing weed.

    Naive politicians, prices are going to drop regardless, best they could do to generate taxes is to pass a excess electrical tax like Arcata CA did.

  • Not gonna be pretty

    Mark Harris – “…It is evident that such information may be readily obtainable via Public Records Act request and also by local, state and federal agencies into the future. This unfortunate fact creates a scenario where the applicant’s information may be obtained for purposes relating to criminal prosecution, potential civil liability or simply for informational purposes unrelated to the County’s immediate and laudable goal of assessing community interest.”

    That application info (names and addresses) will be equally available to armed rip-offs too. Growers and HCSO prepare yourselves not “if” but “when” it happens. Even easier and more specific than Google Earth.

  • County Counsel not County Council..

  • As usual, Mark Harris is on the mark with his comments. I too am advising people to wait until the County decides what the standards are for being in good standing, then see if they want to register. I am not so concerned about the feds grabbing the lists but I am concerned about people filing the form before they know what information is needed. They may end up saying things that they’ll wish they had not. People have until July 31, 2016 to turn this form in, so there’s no rush.
    Also, patients growing for themselves are exempt from licensing requirements, as are primary caregivers with no more than 5 patients. Watch out about this caregiver thing. You need to do more than sell someone pot to be their primary caregiver. It’s pretty easy for family members or close friends to be primary caregivers. You need to have “consistenly assume responsibility for the housing, health, or safety” of the patient. If in doubt, ask a lawyer. It’s cheaper than hiring one after you get arrested.

  • anyone who goes legal will regret it, drowned in red tape…
    good luck! (you’ll need it)

  • Completely decriminalize marijuana.

    Marijuana is a right of existence. The stereotypes around growing, consuming and appreciating the plant are just that. Marijuana belongs to everybody. We live in Orwellian times for sure.

  • Completely decriminalize marijuana.

    Also, it’s disturbing to see lifetime locals who are now in government aggressively pursuing marijuana money strictly for the government’s sake. These are people who fully understand the concept of “free the weed”. Money made by locals spreads locally. More money is never enough for government. Case in point: all of history. As soon as somebody starts collecting a government check (and the supervisors collect a very nice paycheck!) they belong to the business of making the government money. Take a look at property taxes, service fees, etc., make the connection to environmental degradation, loss of natural environment and crime to see the insanity for what it is. Our cost of living is increasing, it’s just about impossible to live on a fixed income and our own Humboldt county board of supervisors is still trying to nickel and dime us to death.

  • Good luck with that

    The zip tie program was a raid and a bust for a bunch of our friends .Go ahead sign up fpr your raid and arrest . I’m in good standing already with a collective hooked up to a dispensary . I don’t need any stupid county list .Those clowns will not protect you from the feds at all .In fact downey keeps asking the feds to get involved .

  • Why should pot farmers be subjected to outrageous taxes and fees at every step from seed to sale?
    Charging for permits just to transport? Really? No other crop requires this. Requiring permits to grow, distribute, make clones, blah, blah, blah, plus $200 tax per pound! Then you pay income tax–which is fine–but the Federal government won’t allow any business deductions associated with the grow. If you are a farmer, you know how expensive it is to produce MJ. This is bullshit. I’m not feeling it!

    • More More More More

      Not just the government, but the private sector as well. Electricians, plumbers, carpenters, security companies, people helping cannabis growers become compliant and legal, consultants, everybody that touches anything to do with cannabis wants more. Why? I have no clue. It used to be because you could get in trouble and some sort of compensation for the risk should be in place. Now it’s a different story.

  • Our supervisors will roll over like golden retrievers who want to get their belly’s rubbed . The federal government will say give me the list and they will give it to them with copies for all the agencies with arrows and diagrams and directions to each permit

  • So the only business not allowed business deductions is the Cannabis business? Jim Crow like laws all over again.

  • I see a different sort of risk in the CCAR, and it’s analogous to Los Angeles and other cities that tried to “grandfather” in existing dispensaries without opening the floodgates to new ones. In L.A.’s 2013 Proposition D, the chronological line in the sand was backdated six years to 2007, the year an “interim control ordinance” was passed. The result was a relatively small number of “pre-ICO” dispensaries that were grandfathered in and a much larger number of “post-ICO” dispensaries that were banned.

    The key take-away for Humboldt is that the CCAR may morph into a tempting proof of cultivation status before or after a set date. This dividing line may ultimately be used to limit the number of new local permits or authorizations, if only because Humboldt will remain a popular destination for growers locked out of ban counties. Whether capping local licenses will actually happen someday, I can’t say, but if it does, CCAR filing status could become a convenient tool to do so. Within that context, the risk of NOT filing a CCAR seems to outweigh the risks of filing one.

  • It sounds like everybody is trying to get their piece of the pie. Pretty pathetic really. It should be no different than growing tomatoes. People grow them, people sell them, people buy them, and people use them. The end. Let the free market work.

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