Cannabis After Dark

Letter Writer Argues that Current Cannabis Regulations Are Onerous and Forcing Growers to Stay in Black Market, Offers Suggestions


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Marijuana buds in a garden.
[Photo by Kym Kemp]

March 3, 2018

Senator McGuire Assemblymember Wood

Dear Senator McGuire and Assemblymember Wood:

First of all I want sincerely “Thank You” for scheduling and facilitating the recent Proposition 64 Hearing/Workshop in Ukiah. It was fairly well attended and some good information was presented. I state “…fairly well attended…” because I’ve heard estimates that there are around 25,000 farmers here on the northcoast (Humboldt, Trinity, Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma Counties). Of course this does not include all the other folks who are directly or indirectly involved in the cannabis industry.

As “The Man, The Myth, The Legend”, Tony Linegar, Sonoma County’s Ag Commissioner correctly pointed out, “If the overall goal of the program was to favor a corporate, big dollar, new money industry then we have succeeded, if the goal was to create a workable pathway for existing operators, then I think we have failed.” Mr. Linegar went on to say “…I see no compelling reason to regulate this crop any differently than other crops.”

Assemblymember Wood you may remember that on October 6, 2016, on the steps of the Humboldt County Courthouse you said that MCRSA “… essentially classifies cannabis as an agricultural product, which requires cultivators to abide by the same regulations as other existing agricultural operations.” The current local and State regulations are absolutely contrary to this statement. No other agricultural activity in the State is subject to the regulations applied to the cultivation of cannabis. If the cannabis regulations and permitting process was required for other agricultural activities (dairy, cattle, viticulture, floriculture, row crop production, etc.,) they would generate a rebellion. What is truly frustrating and discouraging is that the cultivation of hemp, a cannabis sativa variety, is not subject to State and local regulations although it is grown very much the same way.

I understand the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) and the Department of Water Resources (DWR) are being extremely heavy handed in assessing fines and penalties and requiring permits for violations that occurred decades ago as result of approved Timber Harvest Plans (THP’s) and poor ranching/grazing practices. Again, no other agricultural activity in the State is required to remediate “legacy” issues. From what I hear, this alone is the number one impediment discouraging folks from coming into the legal market. I have heard that some property owners have spent in excess of $100,000 in fines, penalties and remediation costs for activities that resulted from approved THP’s decades ago.

The requirement for hydraulic studies, biological assessments, cultural resource studies and other technical studies for existing cultivation sites does little to enhance or protect most cultivation sites and the proximate environment. The only ones benefiting from all the required studies are consultants.

I and many others and I have to believe that the two of you believe that the local and State onerous and costly permitting processes are driving the small farmers either out of business or encouraging them to go back into the black indoor market of hidden, clandestine grows fueled by diesel generators.

Furthermore, Humboldt County’s aggressive code enforcement program of imposing fines of $10,000 per day, has also had a big impact on the resurgence of indoor cultivation. I have seen more generators in the last year than I have seen in the past four or five years. Obviously this is the last thing anyone wanted to see, including the farmers, as a result of Proposition 64 and the implementation of local and State regulations.

Senator McGuire, you indicated that 60% of the nation’s cannabis is grown in Humboldt, Trinity, Mendocino and Lake Counties. Although I knew a significant amount of the cannabis consumed by the Country was cultivated in Northern California, I had no idea the four Counties here on the northcoast produced 60% of the cannabis demand in the Country. I actually advocated and continue to advocate that cannabis cultivation and its value added processes should be limited to those Counties that have been historically involved in the cultivation of cannabis. As both of you know cannabis cultivation here in the Emerald Triangle is the economic driver of our communities. As I have previously corresponded to the both of you, I applaud your efforts to reinstate the one (1) acre cap which was so instrumental in the passing of Proposition 64. Without the one (1) acre cap, I truly believe that Proposition 64 would not have passed

Unless, both local and State regulations are changed to make it easier for the farmers to obtain State and local permits, I fear that the consequences will have a significant, dramatic impact here on the northcoast. There are tens of thousands of folks either directly or indirectly involved in the cannabis industry. The northcoast cannabis industry has a huge economic impact on retail sales and services including but not limited to clothing, automobile and truck sales, tires, restaurants, building materials and construction, growing supplies and real estate. Many business owners are already seeing huge drops in sales. If this continues I truly believe unemployment rates will rise, crime will rise, dependency on social services will rise, homelessness will rise, drug and alcohol dependency will rise and property values will decrease, which is already happening.

In my opinion, if the zoning of a parcel allows general agricultural activities, cultivation should be principally permitted subject to very few, if any, performance standards and a State license. That’s it! In regards to the State licensing requirements and potential changes to MACRSA, I offer the following recommendations:

  • Limit cannabis cultivation and value added processing and manufacturing to those northern California counties that have been historically involved in the cultivation of cannabis; and
  • Completely ban all indoor cultivation utilizing artificial light. Mixed-light cultivation would be allowed consistent with the current State regulations. Banning indoor cultivation would be consistent with the Governor’s Climate Action Plan and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • Reinstate the one acre cultivation cap and limit persons/entities to one license; and
  • Eliminate the requirement that farmers remediate legacy issues except those that may pose an immediate threat to the environment. In these cases no fines or penalties should be imposed if the issue is addressed and corrected in a timely manner; and
  • Eliminate the flower, leaf and fresh cannabis taxes and impose the 15% excise tax at the point of sale; Please refer to CannaCraft’s handout regarding the taxes; and
  • Eliminate the requirement of both “A” and “M” license types. The “A” or “M” determination should be made at the point of sale; and
  • Eliminate the minimum parcel sizes for nurseries. Until last Thursday night’s meeting I was not aware of the ten (10) acre minimum parcel size for nurseries. This may be a Mendocino County requirement.

In addition to the above recommendations, I support the recommendations made by Bill Silver of CannaCraft regarding the “child resistant” packaging requirements.

Once again, I “THANK” the both of you for holding the recent hearing/workshop in Ukiah. If there is any chance to hold a similar meeting in Humboldt, I strongly encourage you to do so. Obviously both of you recognize that the cannabis industry, made up of primarily small farmers, is the economic backbone of the northcoast. Anything you can do to streamline the process, reinstate the one acre cap, and reduce the permitting costs is greatly appreciated.

Kevin Caldwell


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