The man who walks in the woods
"[Assemblymember is awkward.
Thankfully, I arrived early. Many had to stand in the packed arena. A four-hour meeting, broadcast and televised. Words, words. So many public officials they even had police there. Hm.
It was about state marijuana law. And the new County ordinance. Here’s a run down:
Intros by Senator Mike McGuire, Assemblymember Jim Wood, and Supervisor Estelle Fennel. Senator McGuire gave a history of mj regulation in California, as a preface to the intent here to begin soliciting info for the new state regulations pursuant to the new state law, a process that will last 24 months. [Hm.] Wood [Assemblymember is awkward. Assemblymembly? Assembler. Genderblur. Assemblur. Asunderblunder. Assemblymumbler. Your variations welcome.] noted that AB 21, the bill to erase the “drafting error” [not] of March 1, arrived at the Governor’s desk and may be law as soon as Monday. He thanked Hezekiah Allen of the California Growers Association for aiding that effort.
Adam Quinonez, Assistant Deputy Director, Department of Consumer Affairs, who came from Sacramento, said his agency, which will have a major role with the marijuana industry, is involved with consumer protection and issues licenses to over 200 professions, including doctors and morticians. The Department has over 40 bureaus. The licensing requirements for marijuana professions such as distributors and transporters are not yet developed and input is strongly wanted. Security requirements for dispensaries are also a concern. Input received so far shows many people are worried about the role distributors might play, so his agency knows this is seen as a potential problem. [I therefore crossed out this part of my prepared statement as being less needed than I had thought.] Distributors will not have unlimited authority to set prices and conditions. His Department is now hiring staff for all this and will be holding stakeholder meetings beginning this summer if possible, and the process will be open.
Jim Houston, Undersecretary of the Department of Food and Agriculture, also came up from Sacramento. He said they are trying to assess the scale of the industry, and emphasized that communication is needed. They are presently hiring and are looking for the right persons. He said they need details about growing [and seemed only vaguely informed, but bemused, at the situation he was in. Does this bespeak a foot-dragging agency?]. His Department will do a programmatic EIR. How many are in each license category will influence the EIR. When they reach Phase 3 of their effort they will then begin issuing licenses. [Hm. Suggests a long wait for the EIR.] They also will develop the Track-and-Trace labeling, probably patterned after some county up here – uh, Mendocino? Thank you – that features zip-ties. This is for control of the black market. [Not to mention taxes.]
DeWayne Little is a Lieutenant with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and I have previously covered him in a report of the Water Board meeting in Garberville. He started out well by observing that the people in the room here [lots!] are not the problem, it’s those not here. Protecting the environment is our mission. Our enforcement team is too thin, though; it has only 7 members plus the 11 Water Board enforcement staff. We work closely with the Water Board. Unlike with some other agencies, our laws did not change with this new legislation, so nothing is new for us. About water diversions, we need co-operation.
John Corbett is Chair of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. [John and I have a LONG history!] He rightfully thanked the legislative leadership for bringing this issue forward [but if I took this long in life, I’d just be learning how to tie my shoes]. What went wrong with our past approach? The criminal justice system is too slow. The Mendocino authorities [with the zip-tie program] should have talked to the Justice Department first so they knew what was happening. Our normal permit process is not timely [for marijuana growers]. So we will do a Water Management Plan because we want to streamline this process. [To me, this sounded good.] There are two Water Board staffers, Adona White and Connor McIntee, in the back to help you apply for a permit.
Two visiting radicals from Berkeley left after the first hour. They told their friend Paul Encimer that they couldn’t take listening to politicians just praising other politicians. In the evolutionary sciences employing cladograms to examine relationships, this would be termed as a “ladderized phylogeny”.
Next followed a train of Humboldt County officials: Sheriff Mike Downey appreciated McGuire and Wood because he wants people to comply and now has better guidelines and will know who is and who is not in compliance. He said he was not involved with the new ordinance [despite requests by me and others] because it is medical, and so he is not so worried about it. [Hm.]
Rob Wall is Interim Director of the Planning and Building Department. Readers of these reports have seen him mentioned repeatedly. [He strikes me as a good person.] Thanks go to my predecessor Kevin Hamblin for handling much of the work on the new ordinance. There possibly may be an EIR on the expanded version of this in the future. [This was a contrast to previous statements, where he said there definitely would be an EIR.] He said he wants environmental compliance. There are permits by right [ministerial] and permits with public hearing. Senior Planners Miller and Johnson are in the back available to talk with you. The new ordinance goes into effect Friday February 26. We do not want to give anyone the run-around. We will need more Planners to augment the [expected] rush.
Steve Lazar, Senior Planner, then spoke. [Make no mistake, no one had more fingerprints all over the new ordinance than Steve Lazar. Love it or hate it, you are mostly talking about Steve. Others included attorney Joel Ellinwood and Planner Steve Werner. In my view, Lazar also took a lot of signals from Mark Lovelace.] The ordinance was fast-paced. The Regional Water Board set the pattern for us [partly why that plan should have been sued!] We also thank CCVH [California Cannabis Voice Humboldt]. We didn’t have expertise on this issue, our expertise came out of the audiences. The statewide requirements now give us cover, but the way forward will not be without problems.
Jeff Dolf, Humboldt County Agricultural Commissioner, said he is interfacing with the California Department of Food and Agriculture [which has been given authority over marijuana cultivation by the new state law]. He has authority pursuant to the new law to develop appellation for our county, and wants to develop a special Track-and-Trace labelling to help guarantee Humboldt origin of marijuana produce. He talked in some detail about the Humboldt artisanal program [which Hummap originated]. About pesticides, he will issue Operator ID numbers. At this point only federally exempt materials are legal to use.
During the break, Steve Lazar came and sat next to me. He explained in fascinating detail a couple issues involving the ordinance. One concerned the big grows, the other the issue of the old properties being abandoned by persons agreeing to move to better sites. This second one involved details I was unaware of and if it all checks out it is very good news. As for the big grows, my mind was not clear enough to put together all the details. But it too sounded good. I told him I strongly appreciated how consistently sharp and knowledgeable he is.
Next, Hezekiah Allen of the California Growers Association spoke. [It was his usual it’s-great-let’s-work-together blather, which contained as usual nothing at all of substance.] [CGA wants to represent all the marijuana industry, but mostly those who pay the most. It’s what a lobbyist does. Still, I should.]
Amber Cline, partner of Casey O’Neil of Happy Day Farms, spoke next. [She was the one and only speaker on the stage who came across as a real person rather than a role performer. She was refreshing to hear.] She has a small farm. As a vegetable producer she could not make it without marijuana. [She raised numerous good points; I didn’t copy them all.] If there are only a limited number of licenses issued, those who get them will cause resentment among those who do not, and there will be community discord. Third-party certifiers are needed. High fees will hurt farmers. We need to store more water, so the agencies need to decide how this may be done. Standardization of products will be needed. Co-ops can help a lot, for example they can share certain costs, and this will help small producers.
Next Luke Bruner of CCVH, and a founder of CGA, spoke. He told how he enjoyed taking officials on tours of grows. He said community values were compelling in this regulatory process.
Next came a very long line of public speakers, each given three minutes. I missed hearing most of them because I attended an outside meeting with Hummappers. But among public speakers, I got to speak first:
Robert Sutherland, Humboldt-Mendocino Marijuana Advocacy Project.
I appreciate this opportunity you have created here, thank you. Your new legislation needs serious change. It has badly hurt small growers and the producer counties. Big dispensaries will get huge grows, 4 acres indoor or outdoor. They can grow all they need, therefore the small producers will have no markets. Even sellers of bongs and vape pens must have a dispensary license. I join prominent local attorneys in calling for non-registration by most people. Let’s preserve the black market until Sacramento rights itself.
The new laws reek of new taxes and fees, and these can by themselves kill small farming.
You also have stabbed the medically needy. 243 allows local jurisdictions to overturn Prop 215 by allowing the ban of cultivation and ALL other marijuana activities by patients cultivating tiny gardens for personal use. 643 imposes sanctions on medical people who recommend marijuana beyond its most severe medical uses. Already it is very difficult to find a medical person who will recommend marijuana because of the huge wall of intimidation against them. 266 provides that employers may deny any employee the right to use medical marijuana even if there is no legitimate reason to do so.
These bills in some measure each constitute a law against our community. I ask citizens to resist. Thank you.
My comments put Senator McGuire off his game, I think. He gave a lengthy response, but not a lot of it made sense to me.
I thought his tone of voice was slightly higher pitch. He did mention that his concern for Humboldt small farmers is what had caused him to include appellation language [I am grateful!]. He added the state was not as active as it should have been with the marijuana issue. [His overall response was defensive and evaded all the specifics I raised.]
Assemblymember Wood then added, in a much more calm and clear way, that as a long-time small businessman (dentist), he dislikes all the fees and feels government was over-regulating him. But many in Sacramento feel the marijuana industry has gone too long without paying taxes. [Yeah. But crush small growers as revenge? CaliCartel rising.] He then added that the error I cited in 243 was a [another] “drafting error” that is now corrected in AB 21, now on the governor’s desk. [Hm. Well, with my internet down it will be hard to check it out.]
Estelle Fennel then responded, and she came to the defense of the legislators. I think she may have sensed that Senator McGuire was feeling mugged.
Next speaker was Kent Sawatzky, whom Senator McGuire knows. Kent said the county’s proposed EIR will cost $250,000, but it would be better if the state would fund one for the entire Emerald Triangle, which would then cost only $350,000.
Next speaker was the fascinating ubergrower Karl Witt, but I didn’t get to hear him because I left for a meeting. Later I heard Fred Bauer and Noah Levy speak, but took no notes.
I left a little early, not my usual style. Best regards, Woods.
PS: I love the rain. And you?
Oh, and today [Saturday] I got a call from reporter Steve Moore, Times-Standard [story appeared Sunday] asking what I thought will be the level of compliance, will the black market continue, etc. I must be some kind of wizard, I guess. Or lizard? I like lizards! Well, now that you’ve gotten my tale, I’m free to scurry away.