Pubdate: Thu, 26 Nov 2015
Source: North Coast Journal (Arcata, CA)
Copyright: 2015 North Coast Journal
Author: Grant Scott-Goforth


Outdoor Cultivation Ordinance Barrels Along

Humboldt County's outdoor medical marijuana land use ordinance looks 
like it will meet its early December deadlines, though much remains 
to be done before it could hit the county books by the looming 
state-imposed deadline.

The Humboldt County Planning Commission finalized its directions to 
county staff on Nov. 20, following dozens of hours of public comment 
and discussion over several weeks of meetings.

Senior Planner Steve Lazar attributed the progress to the 
commission's "aggressive" hearing schedule, and sounded relatively 
confident over the phone on the Monday before Thanksgiving that a 
revised draft will be approved by the planning commission on or 
before its Dec. 3 meeting. That would give supervisors the 
opportunity to review the draft and, if miracles don't cease, pass 
the ordinance by March 1. According to the package of state laws 
passed earlier this year, the county will cede local control if 
regulations aren't passed by then.

Lazar said the planning commission made recommendations on a series 
of policy discussions that came up during the ordinance review.

Perhaps the most debate surrounded the county's permit tiering 
system, which will regulate what kinds of permits are necessary based 
on the size and operation of a grow and the parcel it sits on. The 
commission's most recent suggestions permit three different types of 
grows: specialty outdoor, with strict agricultural practices, small 
outdoor, and outdoor.

Specialty outdoor operations with a canopy size of up to 5,000 square 
feet will be able to secure a zoning clearance on parcels larger than 
5 acres, meaning that if the property is zoned properly no 
discretionary review will be necessary.

Outdoor grows with up to a 20,000-square-foot canopy size will also 
only require a zoning clearance, as long as the property is 320 acres 
or larger. A complicated array of canopy-to-parcel-size tiers fall in between.

According to Lazar, the planning commission decided against a cap on 
the number of cultivation permits distributed by the county, but 
suggested revisiting that every three months as farms come into 
compliance. The commission recommended a protocol to refer review of 
permits to tribal governments, to narrow the areas where indoor 
cultivation can take place, to add provisions regarding nurseries and 
on-site processing and to restrict the use of trucked water.

The commission also directed staff to develop performance standards 
for generator and supplemental lighting use. Lazar said planning 
staff will be working hard on those in the next week. The planning 
commission meets again Dec. 1.

Meanwhile, county supervisors are planning to discuss a 
pre-registration program for medical marijuana growers in early 
December, hoping to entice cultivators into a "good-standing" 
designation that could, potentially, give them a boost when the state 
starts issuing medical marijuana business licenses.

It's all part of the county's current green rush; a line in the new 
state law suggests that growers in compliance with local rules will 
be given priority status within the state permitting process.

It's all very nebulous at the moment - the state permitting process 
is still being drafted and the county likely won't have an outdoor 
cultivation land use ordinance in place until March. So how can 
growers possibly show that they're in compliance with county 
ordinances that don't even exist yet?

The details will likely come out at the board's Dec. 8 meeting, but 
2nd District Supervisor Estelle Fennell said the county should 
consider pre-registering with the intent of seeking a medical 
marijuana business license in the future, once the details of those 
are hammered out. That pre-registration, assuming the applicant 
followed through with compliance appropriately, would be enough for 
the county to report to the state that the applicant was compliant 
with local policies, thus qualifying the operator for state priority status.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom