UPDATE: 1:30 p.m.: Environmental groups beg to differ with the characterization of events presented below. See their response to CCVH’s announcement here.
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In a surprise announcement this morning, the medical marijuana political action group California Cannabis Voice Humboldt (CCVH) announced that it has reached consensus with a coalition of environmental groups that, until now, have been vocally opposed to the CCVH’s efforts to develop a countywide cultivation ordinance.
The announcement came via a newsletter emblazoned with #SameTeam, long a CCVH rallying cry, along with the logos for the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Humboldt Baykeeper, S.A.F.E. Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment and, perhaps most surprisingly, the Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC), whose executive director, Dan Ehresman, has, until now, been CCVH’s most prominent adversary.
A key sticking point has been whether or not marijuana cultivation would be allowed on land zoned for timber production (TPZ). In previous drafts of its ordinance, CCVH called for such cultivation to be principally permitted on such lands, reasoning that cannabis production is should rightly be considered agriculture, and in Humboldt County agriculture is permitted on TPZ lands.
Environmental groups, meanwhile, argued that the county should not allow conversion of TPZ lands to accommodate cannabis cultivation because such lands aren’t the appropriate place for weed gardens.
The accord announced today doesn’t exactly settle that dispute. It just sidesteps it. CCVH has agreed to take all references to TPZ out of the ordinance, which doesn’t mean the group wants cultivation banned on TPZ land. They’re just remaining “agnostic” on the issue, said Luke Bruner, a board member and co-founder of the group.
The CCVH policy committee recently sat down with Natalynne DeLapp, Executive Director of EPIC, and her group’s team of legal experts, who convinced the CCVH members that TPZ issues should be left to legislators.
“Once we were educated by Natalynne, we understood that it’s best for the community to remove all reference to TPZ and let all TPZ issues to be resolved at the state level,” Bruner said.
DeLapp said the idea is to get existing grow operations to come into regulatory compliance.
“From our standpoint, we can’t undo the cultivation that’s already being done on TPZ, nor are we advocating that,” she said. “But those cultivators need to be permitted by the Water Board, they need to get their 1600 permits [California Fish & Wildlife streambed alteration notices], the county needs to issue a grading permit. If you can come into compliance with those things, that’s the best we can hope for.”
In effect, then, the next draft of the CCVH ordinance will remain mum on the issue of cultivation on TPZ land, leaving the matter up to the discretion of county officials and state legislators.
CCVH has agreed to incorporate other requested stipulations from the environmental coalition, including a requirement for evidence of adequate water storage, a prohibition on surface water diversion between May 15 and Oct. 31, and a requirement for Ministerial Permits for grows with cultivation areas between 2,000 and 10,000 square feet.
Click the link at the end of the newsletter below for more details.
Just last night we were overjoyed to receive official comments from a coalition of local Humboldt environmental groups regarding our proposed Humboldt County Cannabis Cultivation Compliance Initiative & Excise Tax Initiative. These comments, submitted to us and the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on behalf of the Environmental Protection Information Center, Humboldt Baykeeper, Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment, and the North Coast Environmental Center were insightful, well-articulated, and thoughtful.
It is our profound hope that with these divisions bridged at the local level and with the grassroots fully united, we have empowered the grasstops to pass a Statewide framework this year in Sacramento. This local environmental coalition says it best, “It is particularly imperative to take action now given that salmon streams are imperiled due to the unprecedented expansion of the North Coast’s cannabis industry.”
Natalynne DeLapp, Executive Director of EPIC, deserves special credit on this matter. Her work on this topic has distinguished her as a leader par excellence in our community for the 21st century. Natalynne recently led EPIC’s legal team in a multi-hour meeting, educating the CCVH Policy Committee on a multitude of forestry related issues (especially TPZ zoning). She clearly presented why removing TPZ entirely was the best public policy decision for our community. All references to TPZ will be removed from all future drafts.
CCVH is in full agreement with all that appears in their letter. We will begin adopting all proposed changes from this letter immediately in conjunction with Nossaman LLP’s unparalleled Land Use team, as well as other additional changes/recommendations that have been requested/provided from leading environmental groups such as CalTrout, Trout Unlimited, and the California Nature Conservancy. Specific approval from our board will be required to agree to adopt a sunset provision of August 13, 2020 (the Regional Water Quality Control Board sunset date), and we are confident the entire board will unanimously approve this change. This meshes well with the clear provisions allowing the Humboldt Board of Supervisors to modify the text with a simple 3/5ths majority vote.
We firmly believe that, with these changes, the Land Use and Tax documents can provide the necessary local regulatory template framework for rural counties around California —adjusting square footage, tax, and permit matters— as best fits their community needs and values, or banning outright if necessary. This embodies local control!
We at CCVH and the larger Cannabis Community are deeply appreciative and exceedingly grateful for the extensive work put into this project by the best hearts and minds of Humboldt County, and leading experts from around the State and Nation. As we have said before, it is only when a community stands together, and works together, that true progress can be made. It is truly a historic time when local farmers step out of the shadows and stand side by side with the environmental community to walk into the future together. Not only a better future, and not only a brighter future, but a future that is uniquely ours. We believe the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors recognizes this. Their bravery to deal with this issue head on, paired with the unwavering voice of the community gives us immense hope that the Humboldt County we see our children being raised in will be an even better Humboldt County.
We again thank sincerely the leadership of EPIC, Humboldt Baykeeper, Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment, and the North Coast Environmental Center for joining us as we now move forward on the same team! To read the recommendations, click here.