Letter Writer Argues that Current Cannabis Regulations Are Onerous and Forcing Growers to Stay in Black Market, Offers Suggestions

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marijuana buds in a garden

Marijuana buds in a garden.
[Photo by Kym Kemp]

March 3, 2018

Senator McGuire Assemblymember Wood

Dear Senator McGuire and Assemblymember Wood:

First of all I want sincerely “Thank You” for scheduling and facilitating the recent Proposition 64 Hearing/Workshop in Ukiah. It was fairly well attended and some good information was presented. I state “…fairly well attended…” because I’ve heard estimates that there are around 25,000 farmers here on the northcoast (Humboldt, Trinity, Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma Counties). Of course this does not include all the other folks who are directly or indirectly involved in the cannabis industry.

As “The Man, The Myth, The Legend”, Tony Linegar, Sonoma County’s Ag Commissioner correctly pointed out, “If the overall goal of the program was to favor a corporate, big dollar, new money industry then we have succeeded, if the goal was to create a workable pathway for existing operators, then I think we have failed.” Mr. Linegar went on to say “…I see no compelling reason to regulate this crop any differently than other crops.”

Assemblymember Wood you may remember that on October 6, 2016, on the steps of the Humboldt County Courthouse you said that MCRSA “… essentially classifies cannabis as an agricultural product, which requires cultivators to abide by the same regulations as other existing agricultural operations.” The current local and State regulations are absolutely contrary to this statement. No other agricultural activity in the State is subject to the regulations applied to the cultivation of cannabis. If the cannabis regulations and permitting process was required for other agricultural activities (dairy, cattle, viticulture, floriculture, row crop production, etc.,) they would generate a rebellion. What is truly frustrating and discouraging is that the cultivation of hemp, a cannabis sativa variety, is not subject to State and local regulations although it is grown very much the same way.

I understand the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) and the Department of Water Resources (DWR) are being extremely heavy handed in assessing fines and penalties and requiring permits for violations that occurred decades ago as result of approved Timber Harvest Plans (THP’s) and poor ranching/grazing practices. Again, no other agricultural activity in the State is required to remediate “legacy” issues. From what I hear, this alone is the number one impediment discouraging folks from coming into the legal market. I have heard that some property owners have spent in excess of $100,000 in fines, penalties and remediation costs for activities that resulted from approved THP’s decades ago.

The requirement for hydraulic studies, biological assessments, cultural resource studies and other technical studies for existing cultivation sites does little to enhance or protect most cultivation sites and the proximate environment. The only ones benefiting from all the required studies are consultants.

I and many others and I have to believe that the two of you believe that the local and State onerous and costly permitting processes are driving the small farmers either out of business or encouraging them to go back into the black indoor market of hidden, clandestine grows fueled by diesel generators.

Furthermore, Humboldt County’s aggressive code enforcement program of imposing fines of $10,000 per day, has also had a big impact on the resurgence of indoor cultivation. I have seen more generators in the last year than I have seen in the past four or five years. Obviously this is the last thing anyone wanted to see, including the farmers, as a result of Proposition 64 and the implementation of local and State regulations.

Senator McGuire, you indicated that 60% of the nation’s cannabis is grown in Humboldt, Trinity, Mendocino and Lake Counties. Although I knew a significant amount of the cannabis consumed by the Country was cultivated in Northern California, I had no idea the four Counties here on the northcoast produced 60% of the cannabis demand in the Country. I actually advocated and continue to advocate that cannabis cultivation and its value added processes should be limited to those Counties that have been historically involved in the cultivation of cannabis. As both of you know cannabis cultivation here in the Emerald Triangle is the economic driver of our communities. As I have previously corresponded to the both of you, I applaud your efforts to reinstate the one (1) acre cap which was so instrumental in the passing of Proposition 64. Without the one (1) acre cap, I truly believe that Proposition 64 would not have passed

Unless, both local and State regulations are changed to make it easier for the farmers to obtain State and local permits, I fear that the consequences will have a significant, dramatic impact here on the northcoast. There are tens of thousands of folks either directly or indirectly involved in the cannabis industry. The northcoast cannabis industry has a huge economic impact on retail sales and services including but not limited to clothing, automobile and truck sales, tires, restaurants, building materials and construction, growing supplies and real estate. Many business owners are already seeing huge drops in sales. If this continues I truly believe unemployment rates will rise, crime will rise, dependency on social services will rise, homelessness will rise, drug and alcohol dependency will rise and property values will decrease, which is already happening.

In my opinion, if the zoning of a parcel allows general agricultural activities, cultivation should be principally permitted subject to very few, if any, performance standards and a State license. That’s it! In regards to the State licensing requirements and potential changes to MACRSA, I offer the following recommendations:

  • Limit cannabis cultivation and value added processing and manufacturing to those northern California counties that have been historically involved in the cultivation of cannabis; and
  • Completely ban all indoor cultivation utilizing artificial light. Mixed-light cultivation would be allowed consistent with the current State regulations. Banning indoor cultivation would be consistent with the Governor’s Climate Action Plan and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • Reinstate the one acre cultivation cap and limit persons/entities to one license; and
  • Eliminate the requirement that farmers remediate legacy issues except those that may pose an immediate threat to the environment. In these cases no fines or penalties should be imposed if the issue is addressed and corrected in a timely manner; and
  • Eliminate the flower, leaf and fresh cannabis taxes and impose the 15% excise tax at the point of sale; Please refer to CannaCraft’s handout regarding the taxes; and
  • Eliminate the requirement of both “A” and “M” license types. The “A” or “M” determination should be made at the point of sale; and
  • Eliminate the minimum parcel sizes for nurseries. Until last Thursday night’s meeting I was not aware of the ten (10) acre minimum parcel size for nurseries. This may be a Mendocino County requirement.

In addition to the above recommendations, I support the recommendations made by Bill Silver of CannaCraft regarding the “child resistant” packaging requirements.

Once again, I “THANK” the both of you for holding the recent hearing/workshop in Ukiah. If there is any chance to hold a similar meeting in Humboldt, I strongly encourage you to do so. Obviously both of you recognize that the cannabis industry, made up of primarily small farmers, is the economic backbone of the northcoast. Anything you can do to streamline the process, reinstate the one acre cap, and reduce the permitting costs is greatly appreciated.

Kevin Caldwell




  • Honeydew Bridge C.H.U.M.P.

    Water Board will be hitting heavy on those discharge permits this year. A ten acre hay farm in Modoc was just hit with $40k in fines, meaning it’s just not dope growers they hunt.

    Somewhere along the line water rights were stripped and they aren’t coming back.

  • Banning all indoor, ahh, good luck with that.. The entire rug has been pulled out from under all outdoor grows thanks to state regulations favouring greedy corporations..

  • Wait, so on the one hand Mr. Caldwell is arguing that cannabis shouldn’t be regulated any differently than other ag products and then argues small, historically black market growers should be protected, which is drastically different than all other ag crops.

    And for the record, current THPs do have to deal with legacy issues. But many of the problems Caldwell attributes to old THPs may well have occurred as a result of unpermitted cannabis grow development of which there is beaucoup plenty.

    And if the property is zoned and taxed as TPZ land then cannabis grows should be banned except as an incidental crop (i.e. <10 plants) the same way other incidental ag is limited on TPZ land.

    • All good points! At first read I really liked the letter. But you just blew some real holes in it. I know many people who re-bulldozed open old logging roads when Gallegos gave us all the green light to blow up huge scenes.They will pretend the roads were always there but….they should be responsible for proper culverts and erosion control if these will now be permanent roads.

  • Wheres the help for the many growers who’ve been doing it right ie low impact for the last 30-40 years???

    I would hate to see a return to all the generator indoor scenes out in the woods that became so prevalent in the camp days, too many huge diesel tanks have spilled already.
    If something doesnt change we will be like WA in that hardly anyone can afford to grow so the underground market thrives with only a hundred legal growers in the state.

    And to Cy, are many land owners able to get the land zoning changed or is there still a county rule against large holdings of tpz being changed to ag/residential?
    There are definitely legacy issues from old grows but also way too many from the cut&run logging style of maxxam.

  • “I see no compelling reason to regulate this crop any differently than other crops.”

    True, although the growing of other crops should be much better regulated.

    • Why should there be more regulations for a farmer who wants to farm? He doesn’t want to spend days on his computer filling out forms and such. California is already very heavily regulated. What reason could you have for more regulations for farmers?

      • remember real farmers dont buy dirt, these guys are just florist.

        • Taurus Ballzhoff

          Second most intelligent comment I have read on RHBB, in some time…

        • unless they are relacing contaimated soil with useable buildable soil. there are also those who dont have the time to build decent soils as well, however many many growers do build and admend and reuse their soil. look at a nursery, they use large amounts of soil as well. sometimes it is quicker and easier to buy organic soil then have the down time it takes to create good organic soils that can keep up.

  • no one should be permitted to grow industrial weed on TPZ parcels. My neighbor is destroying his TPZ land with a commercial grow. The destruction has nothing to do with a THP. It’s a tax fraud. No timber is being produced. Just shit tons of pesticide grown pot.

  • Well said! Fish and Game and the State water board are the real culprits here. Ridiculous regulations with huge permit fees which doesn’t even guarantee they’ll check you off anyways. Not to mention the fines they’re dishing out for anything they can. I imagine some AP boys will put an end to their walk throughs soon. Lol

  • Long time criminals going broke. Oh darn.

    • Neil- the true criminals are the ones who made marihuana illegally illegal in the first place- a smokescreen to eliminate Hemp so that DuPont could manufacture synthetic fabrics…an industry that polluted rivers, streams etc. Big Pharma will control medical GMO marihuana, and it will then have a long list of side effects similar to all advertised(& unadvertised) pharmaceuticals. It will most likely actually make people sicker. Education is the only way to help things change. The Emerald Triangle needs to step up and create Hemp paper mills, Hemp cement factories, Hemp oil, Hemp seeds businesses. HSU needs to set up a research department to study the effects of long term marihuana use before all the old timers are gone! Our economy on the Northcoast could be really successful with Hemp industry. Probably fun too!

      • The North Coast region does not have enough suitable ag land for growing hemp at the scale you are suggesting. We’re talking 10’s of thousands of acres to produce the fiber necessary to supply a single hemp paper mill and we don’t have that much flat land. Growing hemp in the hills of Humboldt or Mendocino county would be crime because of the erosion and water diversions needed. If you converted all the almond groves in the Central Valley, you’d be in the right ball park.

        • Well Cy, we have at least 2 wineries here in SoHum and no real vineyards…As per seeds, One Seed makes 10,000 Seeds. That’s a start. Hemp seed is one of the few foods on Earth that contain the essential fatty acids necessary for optimum brain function.

  • I love watching dickhead growers crying into their bong coz they gotta join the rest of us and work.

  • The question I have is, are counties in the south dealing with parcels with multiple illegally built roads, structures and ponds? Or is this just unique to the Emerald triangle? It seems like people skirted laws and regs for years and now want a “free” pass for it. I may be wrong but as I see it that is the case. If you chose to build or grade illegally than you have nothing to stand on for it was your choice not to obtain a proper permit in the first place.

    • Land owners actually do have the right to grade a road or put in a pond, theres peramiters, u cant cut threw more than a 30% grade, burm from a pond cant exceed 30%, but the county wants u to pay to have them come and pat u on the back to make sure u did right but u don’t have to get checked to not have a permit. We do have property rights ppl.

  • someone call the Waaaaambulace.

  • As a long time respected Humboldt County attorney advised two years ago, ” Do not do anything right now. Keep your property clean of any garbage, don’t divert water and don’t give them one red cent because this is going to take them ten years to figure out. And if they come hand them my card.” Turns out he is a very smart attorney.

  • groba dude osnt trustafarian

    Wow. Good luck with all this!

    25,000 “farmers” seems somewhat disingenuous.

    25,000 “outlaw dope growers” more like…

    I don’t think that you folks understand.

    You. Are. Finished.

    Best of luck in your future endeavors, don’t hold your breath while waiting for California to change anything at all in the favor of “small pot farms”…

    If you want to be a farmer, buy some farmland. See if you have what it takes to compete.

  • The water board is way overreaching. Gov keeps domain of navigable waters. The water restoration act issued by obama was not for any good intentions but to give power to the government to put ppl out of business. No 1; coal industry. It made EVERY water way, even driveway drainage, government domain. Trump retracted it stating its the biggest threat to business and ppls land rights. 100% true. Ppl have had their water rights striped or been forced to meter their springs and limited, this is against life liberty and freedom. Jerry brown of course wouldn’t let it go and that was the number one tool to get on ppls mnt to raid during the forced compliance raids afew yrs ago

  • Welcome the the legit world instead of underground. This is the same problem business owners have complained about for years yet the dope growers keep voting democrat. Well to bad. You made your bed now lay in it. Get rid of over taxing and over regulating that has been killing California for years. I have zero sympathy. Oh yea, I doubt the underground growers will be making money like they used to or at all. Why but that when you can go to the local store and buy some? You don’t see a big underground for beef or booze because you can go to Safeway and buy it without fear of going to jail. The big cooperation you talk crap about will kill you on price and volume. The legalization of pot I have hoped for for years it turning into everything I hoped. Guy you folks will have to learn to get real jobs and pay taxes like the rest of us. Since it is legal I think I will plant a bunch of male plants all over the place now just to help out the outdoor growers. I love it whan a plan come together.

  • Growers need to move their operations to flat farmlands where permitting is less costly and they inflict less environmental damage. If they insist on trying to compete at a steep and remote location then pay the price for full compliance.

  • I can’t believe how
    Many people have issues with grows in tpz! Clearly They haven’t been spent much time in that zoning and have no understanding of the mess that most of the growers inherited their land in. I own 160 acres of tpz and there is almost 0% harvestable trees on the property due to it no being replanted and managed correctly. So the the only portion on my land that can create revenue for the county or state is the less and 3 acres I’ve legally converted. … the rest is a nature preserve which was my intention in the first place

    • I feel you on the TPZ, most TPZ land is pretty much useless. Old clear cuts from the 60s and 70s. Why people care about 3 acre conversions is beyond me. The 3 acre conversion was written specifically to make old TPZ parcels somewhat usable

    • The issue is that you get a significant property tax break for having the TPZ designation. You probably pay less tax on your 160 acres than I do on my 0.15 acre lot in town. If you have no intention of growing and harvesting timber the you shouldn’t get the tax break, it’s that simple.

      • well of course the taxes are less, tpz is not inside the city limits, pretty sure city lots dont have to pay to maintain all 100 percent of the roads either , much like tpz land culverts roads washout all have to be replace maintained , and to even replace what is already there when you bought the place you need permits studies engeinering stamps , all for simple basic work, that is being taken advantage of by greedy folks wanting everyone else to pay for them. but it is ok remember in your 30 and 40 year thoughts that many havent been here that long many are trying to do it right and many care about tgis county, the people in it and the land. for every crappy grower i bet there are 2 that are honestly trying to do it right. how about instead of gloating about how hard it has become, offer then some guidance some assistance instead of coming across like some sort of person who got picked on in school and the teacher finally listened to you ?

    • groba dude osnt trustafarian

      Excuse me, I am pretty sure the intent was to restore timber on the “TPZ” lands, not have “protected farming conversion”…

      The way you folks think is amazing. It is not a public service to grow dope, and, if nature intended Humboldt to grow the kind of “crops” you all favor, there would have been no forests here at all, ever!

      Growing marijuana in potting soil in Humboldt county, is an environmental and social disaster!

      Plant some trees on your TPZ land, enjoy your time on earth, and, stop fueling the drug-addicted mess that is your community!

  • Its all a joke,……..

    -The Comedian

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