Humboldt County seeks to expand its cannabis industry in new rules

A leaf of marijuana glows under a 1,000-watt grow light in Arcata in this August 2013 file photo.
A leaf of marijuana glows under a 1,000-watt grow light in Arcata in this August 2013 file photo. Times-Standard file

If you Go

What: Humboldt County cannabis ordinance public workshops

When: 5 p.m. Sept. 7 and Sept. 21

Where: Supervisors’ chamber, first floor, Humboldt County Courthouse, 825 Fifth St., Eureka

More information about the meeting can be found online at humboldtgov.org/civicalerts.aspx?AID=1421.

The draft ordinance can be found online at www.humboldtgov.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/60896.

The public will have two opportunities this month to weigh in on how Humboldt County will regulate its cannabis market.

The county planning commission is set to hold two meetings on Sept. 7 and Sept. 21 in Eureka to review the proposed changes to the county’s marijuana rules, which include allowing for nonmedical marijuana sales, opening up new types of businesses — such as “bud-and-breakfasts” — and addressing conflicts with local cities.

The Board of Supervisors is planning to pass the new rules before the start of the new year when California’s medical and nonmedical cannabis markets will come online.

The board must also approve an environmental review of the regulations, which the county was required under a court order to perform as part of a settlement agreement with the Humboldt-Mendocino Marijuana Advocacy Project last year.

One of the more contentious issues in the ordinance is allowing grows near a city’s sphere of influence. Some Fortuna residents have expressed outrage that they were not able to weigh in on certain marijuana permit applications that would set up businesses near their neighborhoods.

The county is seeking to amend that issue by requiring any commercial cannabis activity to require a special permit if they are within a city’s sphere of influence or within 1,000 feet of a city, tribal rancheria or tribal reservation.

The county would also be required to notify nearby property owners within 1,000 feet of the proposed cannabis business and a public hearing before a hearing officer can be requested.

“The Hearing Officer shall have the discretion to deny any discretionary permit application within these areas if it is found, based on substantial evidence in the record, that the impacts of a proposed activity on the existing uses will have a significant adverse effect on the public health, safety, or welfare,” the draft ordinance states.

However, some Fortuna residents have called for the county to completely ban marijuana cultivation within a city’s sphere of influence at county meetings earlier this year.

The proposed rule changes also seek to expand the types of cannabis businesses, from farm stands to tourism.

The ordinance allows for cannabis cultivators to sell their cannabis at their farm if they obtain a conditional use permit and a state retail license. Microbusinesses would also be permitted, allowing business owners to cultivate up to 10,000 square feet of cannabis as well as distribute, create concentrates with nonvolatile methods and sell their products all at a single site.

Responding to demand by event organizers and recent conflicts, the county ordinance will also allow for temporary special event permits which will authorize on-site cannabis sales and consumption for people over 21 years old. The ordinance would also allow businesses such as dispensaries to obtain permits for on-site consumption.

The ordinance will also allow new cannabis permit applications to be submitted, which has not been possible since the Dec. 30, 2016 deadline.

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

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