Supes Gonna Regulate Cannabis and HuMMAP Wants You to Help

The Supervisors of Humboldt County are charged with the unenviable task of regulating legal marijuana in such a way that they don’t kill the economy of Humboldt now or choke it down in the future.  All the while, they and everyone else is aware that legal medical cannabis is not the economic engine of the county, it is black-market Humboldt Homegrown sold here and conveyed by terrified drivers across the state and across the nation which brings greenbacks into these golden hills and puts money into the coffers of businesses and counties alike.

Earlier this month, a proposal for regulating marijuana was discussed by the county and met with some hostility from many growers.  Not all are unhappy with the proposal though.  Nonetheless, a meeting was held in Southern Humboldt to gather community input and start discussion on how the ordinary folk of the county think the Supervisors should proceed.  Supervisor Cliff Clendenen and Mel Kreb from the Planning Commission were there as well as several members of the press and members of the Humboldt Growers Association. There are hopes for more such meetings throughout the county.

Charlie Custer, the moderator of  this first meeting, wrote an excellent summary of the main points that were discussed that I’m featuring below as a guest post.  They’re long but worth the read.  Not all of the ideas came completely out of the meeting.  And I don’t agree with all of them but some are new and important.  Here’s Charlie Custer’s summary:

At the Garberville Vets Hall…, a couple dozen people interested
in the challenges of marijuana regulation started a conversation that
HuMMAP, the Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel, wants
to take on the road countywide. We will hold public hearings across
the county to assure that our government gets the information it needs
before attempting to codify regulation of our biggest industry. In order to
spark ideas and discussion, here’s a boil-down of the night’s agreements
and disagreements which we invite citizens of the county to think about
and weigh in on, as the long process of ordinance writing, and creating
industry representation, moves forward. For the most part, people agreed
on a great deal.

General Advice

First off, county regulators, planners and residents should understand that
the current “gray area” in which medical marijuana thrives is a place of
rapid evolution. It isn’t susceptible to rigid control because it’s a moving
target, and will dip back under the county radar if regulations hinder
more than help its growth. The immediate goal of regulation should be to
change attitudes and assumptions, by gathering people into compliance
with incentives—because we’ve learned that punishing non-compliance
not only doesn’t work, it creates conflict in place of cooperation and
coordination, which is what we need to face the great changes ahead of
us.

Humboldt is a marijuana production area, which means that we export
most of what we grow. So a defining regulatory goal must be to
encourage trade within California rather than restricting it, as some
current ordinances do. What’s more difficult to hang regulatory ropes
around is the black market beyond California, which also absorbs a large
amount of our production. This will be illegal for at least another few
years, yet we should recognize that it’s part and parcel of what created our
industry, and will continue to be important, whatever our regulations say.
So we think a different path of regulation than has been taken in the past
is appropriate now.

The way medical marijuana became an industry is simple to say, but hard
to grasp. In a nutshell, we can call the strategy ‘Pushing the Envelope’.
Until legalization happens, we must stretch the boundaries that our
industry thrives within, or we’ll lose our industry to other boundary-
pushers who are better organized, better funded, and closer to consumers.
The great centers of ‘potrepreneurialism’ have never legalized marijuana.
They simply made harassing it the lowest law-enforcement priority, and
what resulted was the vast British Columbia export industry, the global
Amsterdam pot-tourist trade, and the burgeoning Oakland industries,
among many others. If we don’t understand how those areas grew, we
will not grow, we will shrivel while they thrive.

The first organizing principle of effective regulation in our situation
should be to protect existing jobs, and to regulate already existing,
thriving activities. Jobs should not be eliminated helter-skelter if the
industry is meant to stabilize and grow. This isn’t to say that grow houses
shouldn’t be regulated or that housing stock shouldn’t be defended; it’s
to affirm that regulation is not extermination. The goal of defending our
housing stock is not furthered by stigmatizing people, nor by punishing
them with unresolveable property title quagmires such as the county has
proposed in an ordinance we think should be withdrawn. We must be
clear on our regulatory purposes, and not exceed them. If regulatory goals
overreach they may fail spectacularly, as our billion-dollar local industry
demonstrates.

In this light, it’s clear that even the best police make bad regulators.
They can’t be expected to know how to encourage an industry they’ve
tried to discourage. More fundamentally, all industries are best and
most commonly regulated by industry professionals who know what the
industry needs, in cooperation with government balancing their needs
against everyone else’s. For this reason, the first and most emphatic
recommendation we make is to create a county-recognized Cannabis
Council, by whatever name, that assists in ordinance writing and
regulatory follow-through.

Public safety and economic stability go hand in hand. Working
together we can promote economic goals that will help social and
cultural cohesion, by promoting self-sufficiency in our production
techniques, incentivizing water-wise and environmentally healthy
practices, sponsoring discussion and education to continuously improve
industry standards, building value-added processing industries upon our
agricultural base, and perhaps most important, by understanding that
our county’s biggest job, and biggest challenge, is not to regulate our
industry, it is to promote it, in order to assure that we’ll continue to have
an industry to regulate. Our industry has thrived without regulation for 30
years. Let’s focus on what we need, and work together to achieve it.

Specific recommendations

The county should undertake a SWOT analysis of
industry Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and
Threats. HuMMAP has already written an industry
survey that the county could help take countywide
in order to learn more about the marijuana industry’s
practices and reach. It’s often suggested that our
Agriculture Department, which currently does little
more than inspect agricultural scales, could play an
important role in upcoming regulation. If that’s not
feasible, a county-sanctioned third party or trade group
could also, at a minimum, weigh and certify qualities
of Humboldt medical marijuana.

What qualities should be certified? Should our
marijuana be organic, sustainable, fish-friendly, fair
trade, biodynamic, high-end, family-farmed? Or is it
a commercial commodity? A standard-setting council
should make these decisions, which will influence how
our Humboldt ‘brand’ is perceived outside the county.
County branding should also be informed by market
research (and ultimately marketing) in California’s
principle cities. The county should team with local
resources such as HSU to fund and write needed
studies. It should also coordinate local ordinances to
move in common directions. For example, current
municipal laws discourage out-of-county dispensary
sales, and ban indoor domestic production while
mandating indoor warehouse production, in a county
world-famous for its abundant outdoor production. Is
any of this sound policy?

Trade within the state must be encouraged, and our
county lobbyist should be engaged to work for our
economy’s benefit in Sacramento, as discussed below.
The regulatory challenges and practices of urban and
rural areas are very different, and shouldn’t be broad-
brushed. This is one of the fatal flaws of the county’s
recently proposed ordinance. It must be replaced with
an ordinance written to suit its regulatory purposes.

Other thoughts to consider: the Humboldt brand
deserves its own public discussion. It is widely
thought to be natural, small-farmer friendly, and
environmentally healthy, and some have suggested
that the carbon footprint of natural production should
be calculated and highlighted, to contrast with
unsustainable urban production methods. But it’s
widely recognized that we have good and bad players
in all fields, including marijuana growing. Trainings
and effective sanctions against destructive practices
must be discussed and designed for our brand to be a
meaningful commitment to consumers. These issues
will be discussed in public hearings to come, but will
also profit from closer attention within the industry.

Cannabis Council

A representative industry group working closely with
government is essential to any well-regulated industry.
The most familiar example of this in Humboldt is the
Planning Commission’s Forestry Review Committee,
which is named by the Board of Supervisors with
extensive timber industry input. It reviews policies,
holds hearings, makes recommendations and
communicates informally with citizens across the
county. These are the first duties that a Cannabis
Council would also undertake. Additional duties
may also become clear. Such a council, whatever it’s
named and however it’s constituted, must be broadly
representative of industry groups (family farmers,
dispensaries, suppliers, etc) geographical areas, and
diverse interests (some people want to grow a lot
more than other people, for example). It could build
understandings useful to many rural counties heavily
dependent on marijuana production, yet unrepresented
in discussions that may determine their fate.

State issues

There are several ways that the county can and should
go to Sacramento for immediate clarification and
assistance. These should be priority areas for our
county lobbyist. Humboldt and other rural counties
urgently require a clear right to transport their produce
to other areas of the state. To distribute in other places,
a clear right for collectives to associate and cooperate
is also essential. More broadly, rural interests have
not figured in any statewide marijuana ordinances
proposed, nor in legalization initiatives to date. This
must change, and the county can lead in changing it.

Open issues to be decided

So far we’ve summed up areas of broad agreement.
There are some policy decisions that must be made
with public discussion much larger than we’ve had so
far. Humboldt’s instinct until now has been to borrow
marijuana ordinances from other jurisdictions. This
is a poor idea for our unique circumstances. One of
our valuable local suggestions goes against a model
the county is considering adopting from Mendocino
County, where medical marijuana is permitted on
a payment-per-plant basis. The Humboldt Growers
Association has suggested, and HuMMAP agrees,
that regulation of mature canopy size rather than
plant numbers is a wiser way to allow for improved
stewardship, and discourage waste of resources in
artificially bulking up yields of individual plants. But
this approach may be inconsistent with the federal
government’s 99-plant enforcement threshold, since it
doesn’t count plants at all.

However, a small-sized canopy can’t contain a huge
number of plants. So what should the canopy limit
be? Originally HGA proposed 40,000 square feet per
parcel, approximately one acre of mature marijuana
plant canopy. After Proposition 19 failed and federal
pressure induced Oakland to suspend plans for even
larger, multi-acre indoor grows, the city of Berkeley
also pulled its proposal to license several 30,000-
square-foot warehouse grows. In this climate, HGA cut
its proposed canopy limit in half, to 20,000 square feet.
The HGA estimates in their latest proposal that such
a half-acre canopy would likely contain between 200
and 800 plants, depending on growing technique. They
say this high limit will leave decisions about grow
size to individual grower’s comfort levels. The county
may have its own thoughts on comfort levels. The only
small survey conducted so far suggested that a majority
of growers prefer lower limits, along the lines of 2500
square feet.

Meanwhile HuMMAP had its own qualms about the
large size proposed, suggesting that large growers
should pay a graduated increase in fees for large
production, as a way of encouraging small, family-
sized grows that would help stabilize rural producer
populations. This is the core question many people
see in rural Humboldt: may thousands of relatively
inefficient, small-scale marijuana farmers be driven
out of production and off their land, while a relative
handful of big players ‘industrialize?’ HGA says their
proposal protects us from industrialization, while some
small producers say it introduces it. What is the right
size of a family farm? When does familial production
become industrial? Should there be a cap to ambition at
all? Or should the cap be entirely environmental rather
than numerical? And what will happen to any of this if
pot’s legalized by the quarter-section in Iowa? These
questions deserve countywide consideration.

Another murky area surrounds the growing medicinal
practice of eating and/or juicing raw marijuana leaves
and buds. More than one plant may be consumed
every day by one person, and the federal threshold
clearly wouldn’t allow for, say, a marijuana juice bar’s
necessary inventory. But county policy should do so,
because successful policy encourages experimentation
and growth, with confidence in success amidst
failures. Might the county push an envelope of
permitted young-plant cultivation, under condition
that abundant young plants must be consumed before
they significantly flower? There are many regulatory
riddles for us to solve together. It’s a good thing it’s
not the job of the county to figure these things out for
us, because they can’t. Can we? Let’s get talking, and
see what we learn together.

HuMMAP will host public hearings in any community
that requests it. We’ll provide background materials,
structure and facilitation to whatever degree people
desire.

You can contact HuMMAP here.

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12 comments

  • Well done!
    Thanks for this one Kym, great coverage.

  • Well done!
    Thanks for this one Kym, great coverage.

  • Busted, Kym. I tried to weave some background into the discussion summary, because we take for granted things that many folks in the county don’t know. This is a first draft for feedback, so I appreciate any and all of it, dear readers.

    And Kym, thanks again for the really helpful boldfacing and formatting. Now how’s about a copy edit? ;^]

  • Busted, Kym. I tried to weave some background into the discussion summary, because we take for granted things that many folks in the county don’t know. This is a first draft for feedback, so I appreciate any and all of it, dear readers.

    And Kym, thanks again for the really helpful boldfacing and formatting. Now how’s about a copy edit? ;^]

  • Nice information for readers, Kym, I enjoyed hearing the latest news, as usual.

    Charlie, what an outstanding job! Kudos! I’m impressed; you really laid this out very well and smartly, having a great, knowledgable, and even-handed grasp on the issue and policies at hand. Please stay with this! I must turn over that journalistic pitchfork to you and Kym for this great reporting, coverage., and representation. Humboldt’s in good hands.

    Thank you all.

  • Nice information for readers, Kym, I enjoyed hearing the latest news, as usual.

    Charlie, what an outstanding job! Kudos! I’m impressed; you really laid this out very well and smartly, having a great, knowledgable, and even-handed grasp on the issue and policies at hand. Please stay with this! I must turn over that journalistic pitchfork to you and Kym for this great reporting, coverage., and representation. Humboldt’s in good hands.

    Thank you all.

  • Thanks skippy, I appreciate it.

    But surely you know that public trust pitchforks are non-returnable?

  • Thanks skippy, I appreciate it.

    But surely you know that public trust pitchforks are non-returnable?

  • The Man on the Moon

    There must be a low cap on the size of farms.. There must be deterant from publicly traded corporations and profiteering (ie Dhar Mann- WeGrow and Derek Peterson- GrowOp Tech LTD former Morgan Stanley IPO and Jim Pakulis- General Cannabis Inc) The problem with modern ag and banking economics is this paradigm of endless growth.. We cannot loose this movement to the vampire bankers.. They will suck Humboldt dry with this endless growth logic.. They will attack any enviormental sanctions.. They will run all family farmers out of business.. They will use petro fertilizers and pesticides.. We cant give them any incentive to get involved.. Really we cant incentivize anyone to move to our county.. We need to be greedy when it comes to who makes money from our industry.. These organization are just as detramental to our industry as slash and run indoor and outdoor growers from out of state.. Harborside from Oakland has already applied for the wherehouse permits in Eureka.. Dhar Mann and Derek Peterson don’t flinch when the are called weedMart or Budwieser of Bud infact they embrace it and are on a mission to undercut the market to send others out of business.. Oakland clubs are the liaison of Wall Street in the cannabis industry.. They want there hands on Humboldt.. Richard Lee is writing legalization law that supports this big business monopoly approach.. Humboldt is a bastion for the counter corporate big business paradigm.. And our number (hell the states #1) cash crop, the financial and spiritual center-piece of Humboldts counter movement is about to be stolen commoditized and profitized for some super rich one percenter in some castle or yacht.. The only way to stop this is to regulate the size of farms and the number of farms someone or some entity can own.. Besides.. Imagine a humboldt with 500 to a 1000 small gardens.. Talk about capitolism, talk about culture, talk about the Napa of Pot! It Will be here if we have 1000 small, clean, enviormentally friendly, family owned gardens (they wont even be farms).. Tourism will thrive and so will the whole community.. I vote 2500 square feet!!!!

  • The Man on the Moon

    There must be a low cap on the size of farms.. There must be deterant from publicly traded corporations and profiteering (ie Dhar Mann- WeGrow and Derek Peterson- GrowOp Tech LTD former Morgan Stanley IPO and Jim Pakulis- General Cannabis Inc) The problem with modern ag and banking economics is this paradigm of endless growth.. We cannot loose this movement to the vampire bankers.. They will suck Humboldt dry with this endless growth logic.. They will attack any enviormental sanctions.. They will run all family farmers out of business.. They will use petro fertilizers and pesticides.. We cant give them any incentive to get involved.. Really we cant incentivize anyone to move to our county.. We need to be greedy when it comes to who makes money from our industry.. These organization are just as detramental to our industry as slash and run indoor and outdoor growers from out of state.. Harborside from Oakland has already applied for the wherehouse permits in Eureka.. Dhar Mann and Derek Peterson don’t flinch when the are called weedMart or Budwieser of Bud infact they embrace it and are on a mission to undercut the market to send others out of business.. Oakland clubs are the liaison of Wall Street in the cannabis industry.. They want there hands on Humboldt.. Richard Lee is writing legalization law that supports this big business monopoly approach.. Humboldt is a bastion for the counter corporate big business paradigm.. And our number (hell the states #1) cash crop, the financial and spiritual center-piece of Humboldts counter movement is about to be stolen commoditized and profitized for some super rich one percenter in some castle or yacht.. The only way to stop this is to regulate the size of farms and the number of farms someone or some entity can own.. Besides.. Imagine a humboldt with 500 to a 1000 small gardens.. Talk about capitolism, talk about culture, talk about the Napa of Pot! It Will be here if we have 1000 small, clean, enviormentally friendly, family owned gardens (they wont even be farms).. Tourism will thrive and so will the whole community.. I vote 2500 square feet!!!!

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