An outdoor cannabis plant's cola inside of a garden grow site in Humboldt County.

Brian Shamblen

Environmental Groups Urge Humboldt County Regulators to Hold Off on New Cannabis Cultivation Licenses

A cohort of five environmental stewardship organizations sent a letter to the Humboldt County, California Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors asking them not to permit any new cannabis grows as the state rolls toward the adult-use industry.

The Oct. 12 letter, authored by representatives from the Environmental Protection Information Center, Northcoast Environmental Center, Redwood Region Audubon Society, the North Coast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, and Humboldt Baykeeper, contends that while the Commercial Cannabis Land Use Ordinance “would significantly minimize environmental and social impacts” from cannabis farms, the organizations are concerned “about the potential cumulative impacts of permitting ‘new’ cultivation sites” while the county struggles with current operations.

“Humboldt County continues to experience unacceptable impacts, both social and environmental, from the cannabis industry despite the county’s attempts to regulate the medical marijuana industry through the [Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance],” the letter says, pointing out that the Draft Environmental Impact Report found that only 8 to 13 percent of existing farms applied to cultivate under the MMLUO. “The likely culprit is inadequate enforcement of the MMLUO, particularly against cannabis grow operations that did not file an application with the county.”

The group said while they were “encouraged” by the Board of Supervisor’s recent moves to decrease the time between the notice of code violation and abatement order from 75 to 10 days and raising the fines for violation from $10,000 to $90,000, the progress made to rid the region of unlicensed grows is moving slowly.

The conservationists suggest not permitting any new grows – indoor, outdoor, or mixed light – “that did not exist before Dec. 31, 2015 or did not seek a permit under the MMLU, except under the Retirement, Remediation, and Relocation program.”

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