Before legalization. File photo: HCSO.




Friends of the Eel River, a Humboldt-based environmental group that advocates for the Eel River basin, is asking a judge to press pause on Humboldt County’s commercial cannabis regulatory regime, on the grounds that the county’s adoption of its cannabis ordinance violated the California Environmental Quality Act.

Specifically, the organization claims that the county didn’t adequately study the impact of the ordinance on water quality and water resources in the county. It’s asking the judge to immediately put a halt to the program — including the issuance of new cannabis permits —- while the claim is adjudicated.

The FoER suit — which you can read at the link above — was filed in Humboldt County Superior Court this afternoon.

Press release from Friends of the Eel:

Friends of the Eel River (FOER) has filed suit against the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors for failing to adequately protect our native fish and waters from the impacts of cannabis cultivation. 

In early May, Supervisors approved a Cannabis Cultivation Land Use Ordinance that would allow 3,500 cultivation sites to be permitted without the careful analysis necessary to insure those operations will not have significant impacts on Humboldt County’s watersheds and wildlife. Adverse watershed impacts associated with marijuana cultivation include increased sediment from roads, stream crossings, and grading activities; dewatering salmon-bearing streams; and introduction of toxic pesticides and fertilizers. 

Friends of the Eel River’s Conservation Director Scott Greacen said: “The impacts of Humboldt’s cannabis industry are driving salmon and steelhead extinct in our watersheds. The County has gone ahead with permitting even more operations without doing the work needed to understand, much less minimize, those impacts.”

The County’s ordinance is environmentally and economically unsustainable. As of May 30th, the State of California has already issued 3,664 cultivation licenses statewide, which could produce more than three times the projected total state demand for weed. The 770 licenses Humboldt County has already issued under its 2015 medical cultivation ordinance can alone supply half of estimated statewide demand. So Humboldt County’s proposed “cap” of 3,500 permits could produce twice as much cannabis as the entire state of California is likely to consume. With actual legal sales well behind initial projections, and prices for cannabis continuing to drop, the mismatch between the new legal market’s demand and the old black market’s massive overproduction keeps growing. Humboldt County’s preferred solution to the enormous black market marijuana industry it has allowed to take root is to give permits to as many operators as it can convince to take them ­– an approach that tries to wish away the economic and ecological limits the legal industry must face.

“With marijuana legalization, Humboldt County has a real chance to build a sustainable cannabis industry. Instead, the Supervisors have moved to prop up yet another boom and bust industry. As was the case with the old-growth logging industry a generation ago, the boom times of the Emerald Triangle’s weed industry are over, and the bust is upon us. If we are to break the cycle, we must not only minimize the industry’s ecological footprint but also plan for a future that embraces diversified, sustainable economic development instead of short-term gain,” said FOER Executive Director Stephanie Tidwell.

The lawsuit was filed in California Superior Court on June 6, 2018.