Project Trellis: The Tax Man Giveth Back to the Cannabis Community

Humboldt County Cannabis Project Trellis

[Graphic from Humboldt County’s Project Trellis]

This article was posted first in the North Coast Journal and written by Thadeus Greenson. Reprinted here with their kind permission.

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously March 12 to reinvest a portion of its cannabis excise tax revenue back into the industry it came from.

In a series of votes, the board approved plans to create a local “equity” program aimed at helping those impacted by prohibition and the drug war, a board to award micro-grants to the industry and a marketing plan designed to promote Humboldt County cannabis.

Passed in 2016 with 66 percent voters approving, Measure S imposed a $1 to $3 per-square-foot excise tax on commercial cannabis cultivation countywide. It has so far generated approximately $17 million in revenue.

The plan approved by the board, known as “Project Trellis,” is to take at least 10 percent of that — $1.7 million — and spend it on efforts to boost the local industry. The approach has three basic prongs.

The first is to create a local equity program that is essentially designed to tap into $10 million in state funding created by Senate Bill 1294, which sought to recognize the damaging impacts of cannabis prohibition on disadvantaged communities, particularly those of color, and to undue some of the damage done by the war on drugs by creating a more equitable playing field. Because much of the state’s marijuana eradication efforts took place in Humboldt County, where paramilitary troops dropped from helicopters with assault rifles to cut down plants, county staff believes Humboldt fits the bill’s designation.

With the board’s vote, the county will appropriate at least $170,000 toward creating a local equity program. The state has pledged to give grants of at least $100,000 to local jurisdictions that have equity programs in place, with the balance of the $10 million in S.B. 1294 funding to be split evenly between the jurisdictions. (That means if only 10 cities and counties form equity programs and apply for the grant by the April 1 deadline, each would receive $10 million.) At this point, it’s not entirely clear how this local equity program would work, as the board’s vote simply directed staff to “write and implement” the program details.

The second prong the board approved March 12 is a micro-grant program that will make at least $340,000 available in small grants to the local cannabis industry. The idea is that because federal prohibition means cannabis businesses can’t access the same loans and services as their traditional counterparts, they may need a leg up in the form of small grants or loans to help with business improvements, compliance costs or other things. These grants will be distributed by a committee — made up of one delegate from each of the five supervisors, as well as two at-large delegates, one from the cannabis industry and another from a “lateral” industry, like banking or finance. The committee will also be tasked with making program guidelines and eligibility recommendations to the board.

Finally, the third prong is the creation of a $1.19 million fund to pay for a Humboldt County specific cannabis marketing initiative. With the board’s March 12 vote, the county will issue a request for proposals for a cannabis marketing and branding plan that — coupled with point of origin stamp program — will try to build the Humboldt County cannabis brand, particularly in the urban centers of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, home to the state’s largest cannabis retail markets.

Of course, figuring out the best way to market and brand all Humboldt County cannabis under a single campaign is no small task, so it will be interesting to see what kinds of proposals the county receives moving forward.

Some inside and outside the world of cannabis have questioned the logic behind taxing an industry only to then turn around and use the revenue generated from said tax to subsidize that very same industry. (Trump tariffs, anyone?) But others have expressed that the proposal doesn’t go far enough. Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone, for one, said he’d like to see up to 50 percent of Measure S revenue funneled back into such efforts.

Public comment at the March 12 meeting, meanwhile, was universally supportive of Project Trellis.

“Today is a momentous day for Humboldt County,” Humboldt County Growers Alliance Operations Director Natalynne DeLapp told the board.

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20 comments

  • Project “Cover our Asses before we get Recalled”….

  • C'mon 2020 elections.C'mon justice

    Recall em anyway it won’t help 95 percent of us,just the rich already have there permits sell out ratts

    • the misadventures of bunjee

      Recalled? No. But they had better be looking for another job as they lost my next vote with this. Measure S money wasn’t for this and they sat in a chamber meeting and found a way for a “diversion” of it. With a really shitty graphic that doesn’t even describe the growing process.

  • 🕯Good read and very informative thank you Kym.

  • “The idea is that because federal prohibition means cannabis businesses can’t access the same loans” Do government bodies get a free pass on the NO BANKING CANNABIS MONEY? Does the county of Humboldt have all the cash in a safe or is it commingled with federally legal money? Is Humboldt laundering cannabis money? Has Humboldt filed any RECO papers on people that pay fees and taxes in excess of $10,000? Why are individuals treated different than government bodies? Has the bank(s) that Humboldt County uses to bank cannabis money filed RECO on Humboldt or threatened to kick them out of the bank? Double standard much?

  • Hope for a better future in humboldt

    This will only affect 5 percent of us,the other 95 percent are left out to hang and be extorted.Recall these constitution
    Violating crooks anyway!!! This is a fake ploy to give false hope

  • Hope for a better future in humboldt

    Big meeting at the mateel this Saturday to discuss the grotesque and defiled political sherade in our region.the community should show up to see some positive change! !!!!!!

    • Conservatism Is Corruption 🐘💰👈🏼

      Who’s running for county supervisor from So Hum? Estelle again, I assume. Who else? If anyone is going to seriously challenge Estelle, they had better announce their candidacy soon, because they are going to need to raise as much money as possible to pull off an upset. Otherwise, someone from the lunatic fringe like Bud Rogers once again will just waste everyone’s time. Are you running for a THIRD time, Mr. Rogers? If so, just go ahead and apologize to everyone now for handing Estelle another 4 years as county supervisor.

      • Why don’t you run?

      • the misadventures of bunjee

        I’d run but I don’t want to spend the next four years having every shred of my life under a microscope for God knows what garbage I forgot I did as a kid, being that’s the investigative internet culture these days. And get nothing done because of it. True representative government is what it’s all about, but son of a bitch that is tough work.

  • Down with Gavin

    Nice pretty little picture,love the way they put a colourful graph up as there robbing you to try to paint a false picture that there doing us a favor! !!!!!!

  • HOW ABOUT THEY LOWER THE FEES AND LET THE PERMIT HOLDERS KEEP THEIR MONEY ! THE LOCAL CREDIT UNIONS ARE WAY AHEAD OF THESE CLOWNS AND ALREADY OFFER BANKING AND LOANS. THE GROWERS ARE ALREADY BUILDING THEIR BRANDS AND DON’T NEED THE CORRUPT SUPERVISORS HELP.

  • Illegal revenue collection abolished

    Conservatism is corruption I’m hoping that Saturday’s meeting will be a huge success we need a big turnout.I’m thinking that’s gonna be part of the discussion “who do we pick to replace miss nightmare theif” or who wants to step up to deal with the nightmare theives up north for a hefty wage.people need to attend we need to stand in solidarity because what’s happening to us by the few is atrocious. California since Gavin newsom has taken office has not been good for the people. And conservative beliefs started out as a good thing and was good for a long time it just got twisted by corruption and corrupt people. If it could go back to its original form like when Lincoln was president it would be a good thing for the people.all the bizarre behavior and corrupt corporate empowerment,the special intrests putting people in power with campaign contributors has twisted our country away from really being a free country !!!!WE NEED THE RIGHT PERSON TO REPRESENT US !!!! HOPEFULLY THAT PERSON WILL STEP UP SOON “YOUR COMMUNITY NEEDS YOU”

    • In my 1911 I trust

      Haha, The Nuisince is a progressive democrat, not conservative. Estelle is a liberal, not conservative. I really have a problem when people can’t recall the political affiliation of those that they themselves voted into office. If you can’t get the political party right of people that have been voted unto office maybe stay away from the voting booth next time.

  • Trellis netting. Aka. Man trap! Lol

  • I am concerned as to how this money will be spent, is it going to be a elite group of people who know how to apply and receive the grants, are they going to give the money to just a select few growers who are close with the county?
    If there is free money to go around how about returning 25% of our cultivation taxes to all small farms. Or how about 5k for free for farms 10k or less sqft. I don’t like the idea of just a few people who have the time and resources and personal connections to get this free money while the rest of us are left out.

    • But hats how this entire Prop 64 is playing out. This is just a continuation of that mentality and actions.

  • This is a bandaid.. welfare is not what Humboldt growers need. The county needs to stop extorting the Original Farmers.. and Create sensible laws…

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