As the Push for Federal Legalization of Marijuana Gathers Momentum, Congressman Jared Huffman Visits Humboldt Cannabis Farm
According to a 2014 article, Huffman said our district produces 60% of the marijuana produced in America so a national policy change could have a dramatic effect on the area.
The Marijuana Justice Act, which among other reforms proposed, would end the federal criminalization of cannabis by pulling it from the US Controlled Substances Act has gathered a good deal of support in the last few months. This would clear some of the hurdles out of the way that prohibit interstate commerce of cannabis. Several high profile lawmakers, including four potential presidential candidates, California Senator Kamala Harris, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker are all sponsors of the bill.
In April, top Democrat Chuck Schumer announced that he was introducing separate legislation to decriminalize marijuana and John A. Boehner, the former Republican speaker of the House announced that his “thinking on cannabis has evolved” and he’s joining the board of a cannabis corporation.
When Huffman toured the Humboldt Sky farm located near Garberville, he listened to the concerns of around twenty farmers and business owners but made it clear that he could do little to affect state policy as he was a federal congressman.
Nonetheless, there were several concerns in which he seemed particularly interested. One issue brought up by landowner Robert May noted that the mold and fungus standards for cannabis were much higher than that for other agricultural products including tobacco.
“They’re so strict that we can’t recycle bags used to hold cannabis,” May explained. “We have to throw them all away after one use. [With the new standards,] we’ve gone from being very concerned with recycling to throwing away many, many bags…They are mandating pollution.”
Another environmental concern May brought to the Congressman’s attention was how much power marijuana grown indoors uses compared to that grown outdoors or in solar-powered greenhouses. According to the Seattle Times,
[Indoor] pot production often uses hospital-intensity lamps, air conditioning, dehumidifiers, fans and carbon-dioxide generators to stimulate plants and boost their potency…The power-hungry crops rival data centers or server farms in intense use of electricity, according to a peer-reviewed study last year in the journal Energy Policy. One kilo, or 2.2 pounds, of pot grown indoors, the study says, leaves a carbon footprint equivalent to driving across the country seven times. Producing one joint is equivalent to leaving a light bulb on for 25 hours.
When a similar statistic was recounted to the Congressman who recently introduced a bill to protect solar jobs, he exclaimed, “That doesn’t make any sense.”
Another issue that caught Huffman’s attention was brought up by Barry Nachshon, the CEO of True Humboldt, a brand that represents sun-grown cannabis farmers. He explained that anyone transporting anything commercially requires a dual state and federal permit. And, since the federal government currently treats cannabis as a crime, Nachshon said, “The whole state is transporting illegally.” (See more about this here.)
“That isn’t sane,” Huffman said. “This is something I can take to my colleagues and see if there can’t be some fix.”
As with most gatherings in Southern Humboldt this year, the decreasing income for brick and mortar storefronts was discussed. A former business owner brought up that falling marijuana prices and the increasing expenses of growers struggling to meet legal permit requirements had cut the gross take on his previous business by 40% in six months. He pointed out that sales tax income was going to drop precipitously in Humboldt County. Another business owner pointed out that this, in turn, would cut money to fix roads as well as cut support for fire and law enforcement.
Robert May, the landowner, pointed out during the Congressman’s visit that the regulations in the county were allowing other areas of the state to shoot ahead of the one-time cannabis leader. “Humboldt County is getting its clock cleaned,” he said. “Much of the regulations are good, environmentally sound. But hard to do all at once.”
Nonetheless, he was still hopeful. He pointed out that the County was built on the nimbleness of small entrepreneurs. “The hoop house was invented in Humboldt,” he explained nodding to the greenhouse that allowed his brand to bring in two harvests a year.
“We cover [the hoop houses] with tarps, force them to flower early and we get in two harvests before full term,” explained Adam Rollins, the cultivator for Humboldt Sky. He said that if they used large amounts of electricity, they could get even more harvests but that this way they kept their costs down and their environmentally friendly standards up.
As the Congressman was leaving, Huffman stated that some of the problems faced by cannabis farmers were “inherent with small businesses but some are unique to this business.”
He acknowledged that the recent change to recreational cannabis was bumpy but he urged the farmers to “stay the course and persevere because I don’t think we are going back to prohibition.” He pointed out that although in many ways big cannabuisness has the edge, he still thinks that “there is room for the little guys that are a little more risk-friendly.”
He recommended working with more traditional businesses like ranches and forest owners who have similar issues. He said that working together, there might be state money in the form of grants to clean up environmental issues. “I don’t know why you wouldn’t have the same access as wine grape growers,” he said. “You can’t go it alone on these kinds of issues.”
With national and even international governments looking to possibly relax the rules around cannabis, hopefully, Huffman can gather enough information to help Humboldt during what could be another bumpy transition.