Thousands of incomplete marijuana biz applications face withdrawal

Thousands of marijuana business permits could be withdrawn in the coming months if the applicants don’t file their paperwork on time, according to Humboldt County Planning and Building Department.

“This is a crucial time,” Humboldt County’s Planning and Building Department Director John Ford said Wednesday. “It’s a good time to get your applications complete.”

Meanwhile, several cultivators are starting their operations before obtaining their permits, according to Ford.

The deadline

Of the more than 2,300 marijuana business permits submitted to the county by the Dec. 30, 2016, deadline, only 125 are complete, according to the county.

In an open letter April 28, Ford told applicants they would normally have six months to complete their application after it was submitted lest the application be withdrawn.

However, Ford said his department is trying to be proactive and is providing “quite a bit of leniency” to give applicants more time to get their paperwork in.

Instead of having six months from the date of the application submission, applicants now have six months from the date they received a letter from the county stating their applications were incomplete. These letters were sent out between October 2016 and February 2017, Ford said.

If the applications are still not complete by the end of the six months, Ford said the planning department will give the applicant another 30 days to comply before withdrawing their applications.

Ford said the planning department has not withdrawn any applications as of Wednesday.

Applicants will not be able to reapply until the county completes an environmental study to expand its existing marijuana regulations. Ford said applicants should not expect to be able to reapply before 2018.

Violations

Ford said Wednesday that they are also dealing with a “pervasive” problem of marijuana business applicants starting their cultivation before their permits are approved.

Ford said the nearly 20 cannabis businesses that have been permitted so far are not among the violators.

“If it was a couple of isolated incidents I wouldn’t have put it in the letter,” Ford said. “... There are more violations right now than there are those that are being processed without violations.”

Ford’s letter states all unpermitted new cultivation — or expanded cultivation on farms that existed before Jan. 1, 2016 — is a violation of county law and could result in significant fines. Applications will also not be considered until the illegal cultivation and structures are removed, Ford states.

Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.

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