Board of Supervisors to discuss direction of local marijuana industry

A leaf of marijuana glows under a 1,000-watt grow light in Arcata.
A leaf of marijuana glows under a 1,000-watt grow light in Arcata. Times-Standard file photo

Pot Rule changes

Humboldt County plans to make the following changes to its commercial marijuana rules before the start of 2018:

• Allow new cultivation to take place on more land zone types, including agricultural rural properties, regardless of whether they contain prime agricultural soils.

• Allows for businesses to open close to neighborhoods and properties with consent of the neighboring landowners. A discretionary permit would still be required.

• Requires any proposed cannabis farm within a city’s sphere of influence or within 1,000 feet of that sphere of influence to obtain a discretionary permit, which would require a public hearing.

• Requires generator-powered nurseries and mixed-light farms to obtain 80 percent of their energy from renewable sources.

• New permit applications for existing businesses must be submitted within six months after the ordinance takes effect.

• Forbearance on water diversion now applies to wells.

• Creates a cottage license, which limits cultivation to 2,500 square feet of mixed-light cultivation or 25 outdoor plants.

• Allows for permits to create community propagation centers where mother plans can be stored during periods when the plant does not need to be on the cultivation site. The centers meant to address energy restrictions for farms using generators.

• Allows public to tour cannabis businesses located in industrial and commercial zones. Tours at businesses in agriculturally-zoned areas only allowed if permitted by the county and if accessible by a publicly maintained road.

• Creates new microbusiness permit to allow for up to 10,000 square feet of cultivation, manufacturing and sales of cannabis products at a single location. Business must have adequate parking, be served by grid power or run on 100 percent renewable energy, and only operate between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. On-site consumption also allowed.

The full list of proposed changes can be found online at

Source: Humboldt County Planning and Building Department

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday will give the public the opportunity to weigh in on regulations that will shape the local marijuana industry before the state market goes live in 2018.

“It’s not the last opportunity to weigh in,” county Senior Planner Steve Lazar of the Planning and Building Department Long Range Planning Unit said Friday. “It’s if you have fundamental problems with what we’re doing, this would be the right forum for that.”

The proposed changes include allowing for recreational marijuana businesses, tourism businesses, new microbusinesses allowing for farm stand-style operations, restrictions on generator use and an attempt to reduce conflicts with local cities — such as Fortuna — that are not allowing cannabis businesses.

The plan is for the Board of Supervisors to adopt the changes by the end of November so that they will be in effect when the state market comes online on Jan. 1, 2018.

Lazar and other county planners already heard some input from local residents and cannabis stakeholders during the June 1 planning commission hearing.

At the meeting, Fortuna residents voiced their frustrations about the county’s current rules allowing for a marijuana farm to be permitted without having to go through a public hearing.

The Fortuna neighborhood group Nelson-Hillside Association has filed a lawsuit against the county challenging the potential approval of a proposed cannabis farm on Nelson Lane that is surrounded on three sides by city of Fortuna lands.

To address these conflicts, the county plans to require any proposed cannabis farm within a city’s sphere of influence or within 1,000 feet of that sphere of influence to obtain a discretionary permit, which would require a public hearing. However, some Fortuna residents have called for a complete ban of cannabis farms near the city.

“Some folks said it wasn’t far enough,” Lazar said of the public input they received. “It will likely be a continued source of discussion as far as those final policies.”

The draft rules also propose to restrict generator use by requiring businesses not served by grid power to obtain 80 percent of their total energy from renewable energy.

Cultivators expressed concern about the financial impact this would have on existing cultivators located in remote areas of the county.

Meanwhile, the state is proposing to ban all generator use, which Lazar said may require the county to change its final rules later this year depending on what the state comes up with.

“The industry will be probably transitioning eventually, if not very soon, to a non-generator-based model,” Lazar said.

The proposed changes would also allow for new license types, such as smaller cottage farms, microbusiness farms and allow for business tours if the business can be accessed by public roads.

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