Senior staff with County of Humboldt’s planning and building department say that experienced planners are falling physically ill and preparing to flee the department due to the “untenable level of stress” placed on them by the county’s new commercial cannabis ordinance.

They say that the amount of staff time sucked up by the ordinance has caused the department to miss state-mandated deadlines; that permits for projects unrelated to cannabis are being delayed and pushed aside; that work on the general plan has been delayed; and that the whole department is “at risk of operation collapse.”

All this and more is detailed in a letter signed by four senior planning staffers and sent to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on May 19. The letter calls for the county to implement “90-Day Stand Down,” during which no new applications for commercial cannabis operations would be accepted.

“These are unprecedented times,” the letter opens, setting the tone for the numbers which soon follow. In the 90 days the cannabis ordinance has been effect, the letter states, the department has:

  • Taken 447 calls on its “customer cannabis hotline”
  • Processed 470 “registration forms”
  • Conducted 110 “application assistance meetings” 
  • Begun processing 42 permit applications

How much is that? Wall and his cosigners The cosigners say that those 110 assistance meetings, over those 90 days, were more than double the number of such meetings they held for any type of project in all 2015. It’s also nearly double the number of permit applications filed with the department in the first five months of last year. All told, they write, 792 staff-hours have been expended providing weed program information to the public, and 825 staff-hours have been spent on “program implementation.”

“All of this has been accomplished with no additional resources and no reduction in the expectation to maintain all preexisting operational responsibilities,” they write.

But the increased workload, they say, has put a strain on the department. Three employees have exhibited stress-related health problems due to all the extra weed work, and two people are known to be looking for jobs elsewhere.

“In the military, units conduct temporary stand downs to address issues and ensure long-term operational readiness and effectiveness,” write the senior planning staff, arguing that the only way to keep staff healthy and maintain a functioning planning department is to cease accepting new commercial marijuana permit applications for a spell. “A 90 day stand down should be implemented as soon as possible.”


UPDATE, 4:30 p.m.: Interim planning director Rob Wall calls to tell the Outpost that the document we received is the internal draft of a memo that went around and was eventually sent to the board. The final draft is substantially the same, he says, except that he himself is listed in the “to” field rather than the “from” field — in other words, he ended up not being a signatory to the statements contained within, but a recipient of them. 

This post has been corrected accordingly, and the link below links to the final document, rather than the draft.

Wall said that there has been an emergency meeting scheduled between board members and senior staff tomorrow to address these issues, and to try to find a solution.