UPDATE: Part Two can be found here.

# # #

Original post:

Weed is littered across the agenda for today’s meeting of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, and during the morning session the board quibbled over two main issues: First was a letter of support for Assembly Bill 243, a piece of statewide legislation written by the North Coast’s own Assemblymember Jim Wood.

The bill, called the Marijuana Watershed Protection Act, passed the Assembly last month in May and is now being considered on the floor of the Senate. Wood has said his bill is aimed at addressing the environmental impacts of medical marijuana farms, in part by creating “a structure to tag permitted medical cannabis plants with a unique identifier for each plant.”

The supervisors had a conditional letter of support on the consent calendar — conditional in that Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell, who wrote the letter, asks Wood to include an amendment giving local jurisdictions a direct cut of revenues generated by the bill’s proposed excise tax. This money is necessary at the local level, Fennell argues in her letter, to fund “on-the-ground enforcement of our local permitting processes” and, more generally, to combat the “unimaginable environmental damages” wrought by the renegade industry.

The letter also asks for assurance that the state would “respect local permitting processes,” an issue that will come up again in the afternoon session when the controversial political action committee California Cannabis Voice Humboldt (CCVH) makes a presentation on its proposed land use ordinance.

Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg asked that the letter be pulled from the consent calendar because of recent changes made to the bill in the legislature. The wording of the bill is being tinkered with on a daily basis, and in the latest draft, Sundberg said, references to limits on plant counts have been replaced by limits to canopy size. Sundberg didn’t want the letter to reflect an out-of-date draft of the legislation.

After some discussion, the board agreed to make the language in the letter a bit more vague while keeping the main points intact. 

There was some heat generated during public comment when an angry, bearded man (who did not identify himself) railed against the board for trying to limit the amount of medical cannabis any patient can receive when state courts have said only a doctor can decide how much to recommend. The man referenced a California Supreme Court decision on the issue and suggested the board was attempting to break the law. 

“So all of this stuff you’re discussing is just spending time and wasting money, because there’s nothing you can do about it by the law,” he declared rather loudly into the microphone.

Afterward, Fennell reminded the man that the issue at hand was a statewide bill that doesn’t limit plant numbers. Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace chimed in to say that the man was correct about the law regarding limits to medical marijuana possession and dosage. “However,” he added, “we [local governments] can regulate the time, place and manner in which it’s grown.”

Luke Bruner, a co-founder and board member with CCVH, stepped up to the microphone to remind the board that the bill, if passed, would take effect immediately, since it’s being put forward as an urgency statute. Local governments would have until March 1, 2016 to implement their own land use regulations or ordinances, or at least declare their intention to do so. At any rate, local jurisdictions would have to have their own rules in place no later than July 1, 2018, after which the state rules would apply.

Ultimately the board unanimously agreed to send the letter, with the slightly vagued-up language. “The bottom line,” Fennell said before the vote, “is this is moving very, very quickly in Sacramento. … The idea here is that, more than anything, the bottom line is we want to ensure we do have a local say.”

The second subject of quibbling in the morning sessions pertained to confusion over the board’s own assignments to various weed-related subcommittees. Sundberg asked for clarity because he was evidently miffed about not being invited to the recent town hall meeting in Garberville arranged by Congressman Jared Huffman.

Sundberg pointed out that he and Fennell are on an outdoor cultivation ordinance subcommittee; he and First District Supervisor Rex Bohn are on a separate subcommittee pertaining to medical marijuana dispensaries; and Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass and Lovelace are on yet another subcommittee tasked with tracking legislation at the state level. And yet somehow Lovelace got to attend the Garberville meeting rather than Sundberg.

Sundberg asked whether Lovelace and Bass have even managed to bring back any information on statewide legislation. “Doesn’t seem like it,” he said. And he suggested simplifying matters by having a single two-supervisors subcommittee for all things marijuana-related.

The other supervisors agreed that things had gotten confusing. Fennell agreed with Sundberg’s assertion that the statewide legislation subcommittee of Lovelace and Bass hadn’t held up their end of the deal. “That, to me, is of crucial importance,” she said. “I’d like to see more reports, more regular reports on what [statewide] legislation is happening.”

After some discussion, the board voted four-to-one, with Lovelace dissenting, to simplify matters by having a single, two-supervisor ad hoc subcommittee in charge of marijuana assignments. Those two supervisors are now Fennell and Sundberg, who will hold the assignment until Dec. 1, 2015.

Shortly thereafter the board went into closed session, but the main event of the day promises to be the CCVH presentation scheduled for the afternoon session. Stay tuned.