Humboldt County’s Response to the Green Rush: Understanding the New Draft Medical Marijuana Outdoor Cultivation Ordinance
Who knows what goes on in the hazy world of Humboldt’s marijuana industry? Dealing with the complicated social, environmental and financial issues that spring from this source is incredibly difficult. Because of the controversial legal status of medical marijuana in California and the resulting difficulty in collecting information, no one truly comprehends the effect of the “Green Rush” on Humboldt County. The Board of Supervisors and county employees, though, have been gathering what information is available and struggling to come up with a regulatory structure that both protects them from federal intervention and meets California’s medical marijuana standards while still satisfying most of the needs of medical marijuana growers and the wider community. This is roughly equivalent to wrestling an enormous octopus into a five-gallon bucket.
Still, this Tuesday, shortly after 9 a.m., a draft ordinance with multiple alternatives has been squeezed into some semblance of order and will be discussed at the regular Board Meeting. Expect raised voices and red faces. This ordinance could fundamentally change many issues near and dear to people’s hearts and livelihoods. As Hezikiah Allen, President of the Mattole Restoration Council, points out, “[C]annabis is undeniably the largest single industry in the county. This industry supports tens of thousands of our neighbors and community members and supplies high quality medicine to patients throughout the state. At the same time it has become patently obvious over recent years that this industry is having a serious impact on our forests, ranches, and rivers.”
[If possible, study the Draft Ordinance here before reading the rest of the article.]
Points to keep in mind when thinking about this proposed ordinance.
- This is a draft and subject to change.
- This ordinance is for outdoor marijuana.
- This ordinance is for medical marijuana.
- If a grower does not intend to have an outdoor, medical marijuana garden with a posted medical exemption, this ordinance does not apply to them. Black market growers are illegal under any circumstances and need not worry about this ordinance except they should keep in mind that if their illegal grow looks much different than compliant legal gardens, they may be more likely to be targeted by law enforcement.
Here is a quick and dirty summary: The County is looking at several alternative options to regulate medical marijuana growers and their effect on the community and the environment. All the alternatives require some form of registration with the Public Health Branch of the Department of Health and Human Services. If there is no registration for a piece of property, then the growing is defined as a nuisance and can be eradicated.
Among the various options, the draft includes one alternative that might appease some concerns of growers about their information being used against them later — it is the option of not retaining the collected information after it has been approved by Public Health, but only requiring the information to be posted at the grow site. (Hezikiah Allen points out the necessity of treading carefully in this area, “This ordinance must be implemented in a way that is sensitive to the marginalization that has shaped the contemporary cannabis communities. If the county chooses to keep registration materials on file it will seriously impact participation.”)
Registration would include medical marijuana growers providing the following information:
- Names of owners and renters, etc.
- Address and parcel number, etc.
- Map showing cultivation area and property boundaries, etc.
- Number of plants.
- Water source and amount used as well as right to use it.
- Affidavit that all structures larger than 10 x 12 are permitted and that “less than 50 cubic yards of soil has been moved,” etc.
- Affidavit that “no herbicide, pesticide, fungicide, rodenticide or other chemical will be used on or near MMJ plants” unless approved for use on plants in the US.
In the Draft Ordinance, the county offers two alternative solutions both based on limiting the number of marijuana plants contingent on the size of the grower’s property. In addition, a further exception is offered as a possibility — no matter what other size or restrictions apply, a patient would be allowed to grow a minimum of “two or fewer” plants.
Emerald Growers Association Chair Kristin Nevedal, who speaks for a section of the region’s medical marijuana growers says flatly, “The EGA is opposing the county’s direction.” She has several concerns including how the draft ordinance bases regulations on limiting plant numbers rather than limiting land under production, as is done for most plants. She points out that the Department of Agriculture doesn’t ask a tomato farmer how many tomatoes are being grown, but rather asks the size of the garden under production.
Kym Kemp / Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012 @ 1:24 p.m. / Local Government
CHP Press Release Southern Humboldt/Northern Mendocino area:
Below are the final results of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) Thanksgiving Maximum Enforcement Period for the Garberville Area CHP Office (Southern Humboldt and Northern Mendocino Counties) that began Wednesday, November 21 at 6 p.m. and ran through Sunday, November 25 at 11:59 p.m.:
- 85 citations
- 6 DUI arrests
- 8 traffic collisions
- 1 DUI related traffic collision
- 0 fatal traffic collisions
- 68 assists to disabled motorists
- 265 total public contacts by law enforcementThe next CHP Maximum Enforcement Period will begin Friday, December 21 at 6 p.m. and run through Tuesday, December 25 at 11:59 p.m.
Writes Supervisor Mark Lovelace, via Facebook:
On Wednesday, August 29th, I took a flight with 3 Department of Fish & Game officers to get a look at the scale and impact of marijuana grows in some of our watersheds. Without trying too hard, we were able to count 125 grows in the Van Duzen, 222 in the Mad River and Maple Creek, 82 in the Titlow Hill area and 10 in upper Jacoby Creek.
Some appeared to be no different than a small farm, but far too many showed evidence of illegal and unpermitted clearcutting, grading, road building and water diversions. Regardless of their size and other differences, they all use precious water from these impoverished creeks and rivers, some of which now run dry in places.
Below: A selection of Lovelace’s photos’ from yesterday’s flight.
Sunday’s New York Times will carry a story on the federal government’s crackdown on California’s medical marijuana regime, and particularly how local agencies like the City of Arcata are trying to respond to the feds’ insane new policies. Arcata Mayor Michael Winkler, Community Development Director Larry Oetker, the ACLU’s Greg Allen and Stephen Gasparas of the defiant Sai Center make appearances.
Humboldt Co. Sheriff Press Release:
On 03-28-2012, after receiving a copy of the Humboldt County Urgency Ordinance #2477 regarding Health and Safety issues and use of Humboldt County Courthouse property, Humboldt County Sheriff Michael Downey contacted the group in front of the courthouse. Many of this group had attended the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors meeting on March 27th, 2012. Sheriff Downey met with the group at approximately 10:00 a.m., passed out copies of the Ordinance, and attempted to answer any of their questions. Sheriff Downey requested the group comply with the new ordinance, and requested they remove their belongings, including signs on the fence which violated the new ordinance. Sheriff Downey told the group he would allow them until 4:00 p.m. to collect their belongings.