Pubdate: Thu, 03 Mar 2016
Source: North Coast Journal (Arcata, CA)
Column: The Week in Weed
Copyright: 2016 North Coast Journal
Authors: Linda Stansberry and Grant Scott-Goforth


A small crowd clustered at the top of the stairs of the Humboldt 
County Planning Department on the morning of Feb. 26, waiting for the 
doors to open. In their hands, they clutched land use permit 
applications for medical marijuana cultivation.

"We've been gearing up all week for a big day," said interim Planning 
Director Rob Wall, adding that extra staff were on duty to help local 
farmers file.

"You guys are taking cash, right?" asked someone in line, prompting a 
ripple of laughter.

Wall assured them that they were. The $150 deposit paid to the 
department goes toward a two-hour meeting with a county planner to 
discuss the application and any changes that need to be made to the 
operation seeking licensing.

A young couple from Willow Creek, who only wanted to give their first 
names, Sam and Matt, said they were "really excited" as they waited in line.

"We're feeling as prepared as we could be. The application is about 
an inch thick," said Matt, adding that his wife had prepared most of 
it, including information about their labor practices, a site map and 
much more. "It was a lot of work."

"And a lot of hope," added Sam. "Being here, it's a mixture of weird 
and exciting."

The emotions of Rain on the Earth, a 71-year-old farmer from 
Garberville, were less diluted.

"It feels incredible," she said. "This is a real turning point for 
the state and county. We've been wanting to come out of the shadows 
for a long time."

Earth's great-nephew, Myles Moscato, was the first person to file an 
application, along with his aunt and father. The three generations 
were shepherded up to the counter by Wall as Luke Bruner, boardmember 
of California Cannabis Voice Humboldt, enthusiastically took pictures 
of the proceedings.

"History being made!" said Bruner.

Meanwhile, the county's already being sued over the newly enacted 
medical marijuana cultivation ordinance that paved the way for those 
business licenses.

The Humboldt Mendocino Marijuana Advocacy Project (HuMMAP) filed a 
lawsuit Feb. 26 challenging the county ordinance and seeking an 
injunction halting its implementation. If granted, the county would 
have to stop issuing medical marijuana business permits. The lawsuit, 
filed by Berkeley attorney Rachel Doughty, says the ordinance does 
not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.

The suit references the ordinance's accompanying mitigated negative 
declaration, an environmental report that essentially promises the 
ordinance will not have adverse environmental impacts in exchange for 
not having to complete a lengthy and costly impact study.

"The initial study upon which the [mitigated negative declaration] 
was based is replete with unsupported facts, insufficient bases and 
outright errors," the lawsuit reads. The suit claims the county 
failed to take into account habitat fragmentation, the impact of 
generator noise on spotted owls and greenhouse gas emissions 
associated with expanding grows. The suit also says that mitigations 
noted in the declaration don't appear in final language of the ordinance.

That mitigated negative declaration was the subject of lawsuit 
threats from environmental groups previously, when the planning 
commission recommended changes to the staff-drafted ordinance that 
the groups felt were too lenient. Concerned that a lawsuit would push 
them past a March 1 state deadline that would cede local medical 
marijuana regulation to the state, the Board of Supervisors 
reinstated much of the original draft's restrictions to match the 
staff-generated mitigated negative declaration. Since then, however, 
state lawmakers have lifted the deadline to put local ordinances in 
effect, so the HuMMAP lawsuit will not prevent the county from ever 
getting marijuana laws on the books even if it postpones enactment of 
the ordinance, or even invalidates it.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom