A set of proposed new regulations for North Coast marijuana cultivators would require nearly every backwoods grower to register their names and very specific details of their operation with a state agency.

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board will be holding a public workshop in Humboldt County next week in order to solicit feedback on this and other aspects of its draft regulatory scheme, which it recently put online.

The board’s proposed regulations, as drafted, will cover all grow operations that contains more than six mature or 12 immature plants, and that have the potential to impact waters of the state, including groundwater. “Impact” is defined broadly enough to include every conceivable grow; it includes, for instance, the use of soil amendments and any “[w]ater diversion, storage and use.”

The regulations set up a three-tier permitting system for marijuana cultivation operations that meet those criteria. The first tier would regulate grows up to 2,000 square feet in size that are on relatively flat land, are over 200 feet away from a stream or wetland area, and take no water from a surface stream during the summer months. These “Tier One” operations would be subject only to minimal regulation, but they would nevertheless need to file the details of their operation with board staff and pay an annual permit fee.

“Tier Two” operations – those which do not meet the above criteria in one way or another – would be required, in addition, to develop a “water resource protection plan,” which would have to be approved by the water board before cultivation at the site could commence. These plans would include a detailed map of proposed operations and a complete record of water usage, among other things

Finally, “Tier Three” operations would encompass marijuana cultivation sites that require additional cleanup measures due to past, unpermitted development. In addition to complying with all the programs required under the first two tiers, third-tier cultivators would be required to develop a comprehensive restoration plans for the unpermitted work, and would be required to report back to the board. 

David Leland, a spokesperson for the Water Quality Control Board, told the Outpost earlier today that it is not his agency’s intention to criminalize marijuana growers. (Or to criminalize them any further, perhaps.)

“We want people to be in compliance,” Leland said.

He expected that growers who are discovered to be out of compliance would likely first receive a friendly notice of warning, with instructions about how to get right. Stronger enforcement measures would likely only come into play if a grower actively refused to play by the rules, Leland said.

But he also emphasized that the rules, as they stand, are in their draft form only, and that the board is actively seeking input from stakeholders. That’s why it’s holding a workshop up here next week. The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s workshop on the proposed plan takes place Thursday, May 7, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Wharfinger Building. Comments will be accepted until June 8. See here for details on how to submit a comment.