Pubdate: Thu, 10 Dec 2015
Source: North Coast Journal (Arcata, CA)
Column: The Week in Weed
Copyright: 2015 North Coast Journal
Author: Grant Scott-Goforth


County supervisors approved a voluntary registration program this 
week that could give local growers seeking state permits a leg up.

New state medical marijuana laws, expected to go into effect in 2018, 
will create 17 different types of licenses for cannabis businesses. 
As an apparent stimulus to get applications rolling in, the 
legislation says that any medical marijuana business in operation and 
good standing in local jurisdictions by Jan. 1, 2016 will get 
"priority" status when applying for state licenses down the road. 
It's unclear what that status will provide, but the clause has left 
counties scrambling to determine how to recognize what "good 
standing" means, considering there's no county laws to date dictating 
how large outdoor grows can operate. (The title of this column is a 
quote from Senior Planner Steve Lazar describing the rush to develop 
regulations in the wake of new state laws.)

Humboldt's solution is a voluntary registration program, the purpose 
of which is twofold: to give deserving local growers state priority 
status, and to identify the local demand for the varying state licenses.

As of right now, you can go to the planning and building permit and 
fill out a form with your name, contact information and a description 
of the size, location and nature of your "commercial cannabis 
activity." Simply registering won't mean you're in good standing - 
the county will need to review operations for accuracy.

The details defining "good standing" remain to be worked out in the 
next 30 days by various county agencies, including the sheriff's 
office. But the program will work retroactively, to a certain extent, 
acting as documentation that cannabis growers who registered were 
seeking county approval, and would be recognized, in an official 
capacity, as having been in good standing prior to Jan. 1, 2016 - 
once their claims are vetted.

Supervisors raised some doubts about how people would prove they were 
operating by Jan. 1 and how difficult it might be to determine if 
grows were in good standing. But Lazar said there are a variety of 
tools, including publicly accessible aerial photographs that could 
help the county efficiently verify registrants' claims.

Lazar also released the draft medical marijuana cultivation ordinance 
that county supervisors will look at next week (for details, visit, as well as a letter in support of the 
recommendations penned by planning commission Chair Robert Morris and 
a letter from Commissioner Noah Levy explaining why he voted against 
the recommendations.

The planning commission recommendations lean toward the pro-cannabis 
side - perhaps not surprising, given the board's majority makeup of 
property rights advocates and developers. While the planning 
commission's primary role is to make sure proposed laws fit the 
mission of the county and are consistent with state and local codes, 
the current iteration of the commission has proven to be vocal about 
its philosophies, and those are reflected in the draft 
recommendations. The commission declined to include several requests 
from environmental groups, such as a ban on cultivating in timber 
production zones.

Lazar said the planning commission requested that a "Humboldt 
Heritage" concept, which would reward best-practice growers, be 
included in the draft. Lazar acquiesced, but said the piece was "tacked on."

"The tension we're feeling is that branding isn't really the domain 
of the planning and building department," he said.

The letters highlight the most controversial point: marijuana grows 
on timber production zone parcels. In supporting the recommendations, 
Morris wrote it was appropriate to allow cultivation on TPZ lands 
because "there is already an enormous number of existing grows on TPZ 
lands and to not include these lands would totally remove any 
incentive for these growers to apply for a permit and bring these 
grows into compliance with modern Best Management Practices."

The mitigated negative declaration - the county's guarantee to the 
state that the law won't harm the environment - will be "bolstered" 
by more grows coming into compliance, Morris wrote.

But Levy wrote that allowing grows on TPZ lands without discretionary 
review by the county "poses a problem that the [mitigated negative 
declaration] is currently not equipped to address, and which I fear 
will make it difficult for this type of environmental document to 
survive a legal challenge."

Allowing new and existing grows on TPZ lands will alter Humboldt's 
landscape, Levy wrote. "Such a change would instantly undercut the 
economic logic of owning large tracts of forestland to be managed for 
timber. I fear this could mean the end of timber production as any 
part of Humboldt's future."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom