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Humboldt Marijuana Group Proposes Land Use Ordinance

Humboldt Marijuana Group Proposes Land Use Ordinance

A political action group in Humboldt County, California called California Cannabis Voice-Humboldt (CCVH) has proposed a land use ordinance for the cultivation of marijuana throughout the county.

Humboldt County is part of the region in Northern California known as the Emerald Triangle that is infamous for generations of family farm-based production of marijuana. It is estimated that as many as 30,000 marijuana grow sites — some several acres in size — exist throughout Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity counties.

The ordinance, on which the group has been working for a year, will be open to public comment for 45 days, after which it will be presented to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors as a ballot initiative. The group hopes the Board will prioritize the issue by calling a special election, as opposed to waiting for the June 2016 primary election.

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The ordinance was developed through collaboration between local cannabis farmers, environmental consultants, elected officials, and regulators from the county and state. It conveys a spirit of independence and self-reliance, prioritizing family farms. Patrick Murphy, CCVH’s co-director of community outreach, told a group at a recent town hall meeting,

“I’ve lived my whole life an outlaw, and I’m not going to die an outlaw. I’m going to die a farmer, a proud farmer, a farmer of cannabis.”

The language of the ordinance states: “Cannabis may be cultivated in any zone in which general agricultural use is permitted, including, but not limited to, the Timber Production Zone (TPZ).” Said Luke Bruner, a co-founder of the group:

“Today is a great victory for this community, and today represents the future life of our people and our land. Around the world, countries go into bankruptcy. Puerto Rico slides into insolvency. Cities and counties around California teeter on the brink. But the future of Humboldt is bright because the farmers and the people are organized.”

Zoning and Crop Size

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Details of the proposed ordinance include regulations regarding zoning and crop size. The ordinance does not specify a grow size limit.

  • Land owners with at least five acres could cultivate a cannabis garden for personal use that is no more than 600 square feet in “canopy size” with no zoning approval.
  • Gardens larger than 600 square feet, but smaller than 6,000 square feet in canopy size, would be granted a ministerial permit.
  • Farms of more than 6,000 square feet, but less than 10,000 square feet in canopy size, would require a conditional use permit. Current cannabis farmers would be grandfathered in and not required to obtain the permit.
  • Other than requiring gardens larger than 10,000 square feet to obtain a conditional use permit, just like farms of 6,000 or more square feet, no additional restrictions or requirements would be applied to even the largest marijuana farms.
  • Commercial growers would be required to obtain a business license, at a cost of $25 per year, from the county treasurer. Revenue would go to the county’s general fund. This system would allow authorities to suspend or revoke the license of any grower found in violation of the ordinance.

Said CCVH Executive Director Richard Marks:

“This is a very exciting day for us, but not just for us — for small farmers and for all of Humboldt County. This is the day when Humboldt County takes a huge step into the future, not a future predetermined by outsiders, not a future given to us, not a future we just happened upon. No, a future we are making ourselves and by ourselves.”

Critics Voice Concerns

Despite the progressive, populist tone of the proposed ordinance, some local environmental leaders are pessimistic. Northcoast Environmental Center Executive Director Dan Ehresman, who read a draft copy of the ordinance, said:

“It’s still giving a green light for large-scale growers who are doing significant environmental damage to watersheds and communities. CCVH is about protecting big growers. That’s what this land use ordinance is about.”

Ehresman stressed that many small-scale cannabis farmers operate responsibly, but that he believes the ordinance, if it became law, would permit large farmers to continue harming the environment.

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CCVH President Andre Carey, during an interview following the unveiling of the proposed ordinance, countered the concerns over grow size. “If you can’t show proof that you can get adequate water, then you won’t get a permit,” he said. Carey welcomed feedback from the community. “People can introduce changes that will be taken back to the…attorneys,” he said.

Humboldt County Supervisor Estelle Fennell, who serves on the Board’s medical marijuana subcommittee, noted the lack of grow size limits in the ordinance. “There doesn’t seem to be a limit in there. As the people at the press conference today said, they’re focusing on small farms. If that’s the case, we need to define what a small farm is.”

Photo credit: Lost Post Outpost Andrew Goff

California Considers Full Cannabis Legalization

California Considers Full Cannabis Legalization

California’s Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has created the Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy to examine and investigate the issue of full recreational legalization in the state. Because the issue will be on the 2016 ballot in California, Newsom and his fellow committee members are holding a series of town hall meetings in communities throughout California — especially those known for their production of cannabis.

One such meeting was held on May 31 in Garberville, a small community in Humboldt County. It included Humboldt Sheriff Mike Downey and was attended by more than 200 people. The public forum attracted people from all parts of the Emerald Triangle, including Mendocino and Trinity counties.

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From left, Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey, Assemblyman Jim Wood, Rep. Jared Huffman, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos discuss pot legalization at a town hall meeting in Garberville on Friday, May 31, 2015.

It has been estimated that marijuana accounts for one out of every four dollars in Humboldt County’s economy.

The most common theme among the feedback provided by local growers, trimmers, and advocates was a fear that they would be pushed out of the burgeoning industry by big corporations.

Jonathan Baker, a 25-year-old marijuana farmer from Humboldt County reported:

“We do not want big industry. I don’t have millions of dollars. Make it viable for all of us.”

Another attendee, Mary Ann Lyons, owner of Sunboldt Farms, reminded those present of the value of their reputations with the statement:

“We are the premier name brand in the entire world.”

Newsom said the meetings have been of value and that much feedback has been gathered. He said he believes that the needs of Northern California’s small pot farmers are unique. When speaking to the Humboldt group about the need to protect the small growers of the area, Newsom received a standing ovation.

The commission expects to release a report on issues related to cannabis legalization, regulation, and taxation within 60 days.

photo credit: pressdemocrat

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