Pubdate: Thu, 18 Feb 2016
Source: North Coast Journal (Arcata, CA)
Column: The Week in Weed
Copyright: 2016 North Coast Journal
Author: Grant Scott-Goforth


It wouldn't exactly be accurate to say Humboldt County marijuana 
growers are rushing into compliance. But Humboldtians put their 
neighbors to shame, out-enrolling other Northern California counties 
in the state Water Board's marijuana compliance program.

As the Times-Standard reports, the deadline to enroll in the North 
Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board's Cannabis Cultivation 
Waste Discharge Regulatory Program (take a breath) was Feb. 15.

The program is designed to bring grow sites into compliance with 
water regulations, enforcing rules about grading, water storage and 
acceptable runoff, among other issues. Low-impact growers are 
expected to pay enrollment fees, while more environmentally damaging 
growers will have to prepare and pay for remediation.

More than half the program's enrollees - 28 out of the 51 - were from 
Humboldt County. Thirteen were from Mendocino, and only a handful 
from the other surrounding counties. Forty-three applications are 
still being processed, according to the T-S, but if the pattern 
holds, Humboldt growers have proven to be the most forward-looking.

Of course, there might be more to those numbers than meets the eye. 
Southern Humboldt was the first destination for the water board's 
high profile site visits, early in 2015. Inspectors met with property 
owners and evaluated their grow scenes for violations. The visits got 
a lot of media attention, and news about the board's program 
undoubtedly spread through Humboldt County. It's not immediately 
clear how much enforcement took place in other Northern California counties.

And 28 enrolled grow sites is not exactly a coup, considering the 
conservative estimate of grows within county borders is 4,000 to 5,000.

Still, it shows there are people who want to become compliant, who 
are taking the risks to come out of the shadows and expose their 
practices to state code enforcers. Growers can still enroll, but the 
state board is taking off the gloves and will now start enforcing its 
rules and issuing penalties to out-of-compliance grows.

Meanwhile, State Sen. Mike McGuire introduced a 15-percent medical 
marijuana sales tax bill, through which he expects to collect more 
than $100 million in revenue.

Piggybacking onto last year's regulations, which outlined 17 types of 
business licenses for medical marijuana businesses and removed a 
requirement that they be nonprofits, the tax is designed to fund the 
new regulations as well as police departments, state parks, 
environmental rehabilitation and drug and alcohol treatment programs, 
according to McGuire.

Thirty percent of the tax, if passed, will go to the Bureau of 
Medical Marijuana Regulation, which will distribute it to local 
regulatory agencies via grants (only 5 percent is allowed to be 
collected for the BoMM's administrative purposes). Another 30 percent 
will go to the state's general fund; 20 percent to state parks; 10 
percent to the California Natural Resource Agencies to restore 
marijuana-impacted watersheds; and 10 percent to county drug and 
alcohol treatment programs.

Colorado made more than $70 million in tax revenue on the sale of 
recreational marijuana between July 2014 and June 2015. The 
California Board of Equalization estimates that medical marijuana 
sales in the state exceeded $1 billion last year. With that kind of 
untapped cash poised to flow into the state, expect to see lots of 
wrangling over how the tax revenue will be distributed.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom