EUREKA >> A press release from California Cannabis Voice announced that an unprecedented panel of local cannabis, environmental, and law enforcement representatives presented a forum on the future of cannabis and Humboldt County during a special Eureka Rotary Club meeting on Monday, Sept. 15.
About 200 people gathered in the Eureka Elk’s Lodge to witness the panel take questions from the crowd on topics, including cannabis taxation, regulation, permitting, and environmental protection. The members of the panel included Kevin Jodrey, Mike Downey, Natalynn DeLapp, Maggie Fleming, Richard Marks and Luke Bruner.
To start the forum off, moderator Matthew Owen talked about the dangers of currently legal, regulated drugs like alcohol, tobacco and opiates and cited the failed U.S. prohibition on alcohol.
In Humboldt, cannabis is a “$4 billion — that’s billion with a ‘b’ — business that’s not regulated, not controlled and not taxed,” Owen said. He then stated that the importance of this issue for Humboldt is why he brought the forum together.
One thing the entire panel agreed on is the current system in place isn’t working. When Sheriff Mike Downey introduced himself on the panel, he said he had been involved in cannabis raids in California throughout his career. “What I have seen and doesn’t work is what we’ve been doing …,” he said of current cannabis regulations. “There has to be something beyond this.”
Downey declined to give his personal opinion on cannabis but did say he was excited for 2016.
Founder of Wonderland Nursery and co-founder of the Golden Tarp Award and TheGanjier.com Kevin Jodrey agreed with the sheriff that something must be done. “This is unregulated production of a product that in any other industry wouldn’t happen,” Jodrey said.
Community organizer for California Cannabis Voice Richards Marks pointed out that the cannabis industry has touched him throughout his life in Humboldt County just like it has touched everyone who came to the forum that day, according to the press release.
“We need to help growers who want to be responsible,” Marks said, to humanize these community members instead of ostracizing them.
That is the goal of the October stakeholders summit, according to Marks, which will include representatives from the business, cannabis, government, environmental and medical/patient groups in the area. Many of the panelists noted that there is a need for a system that could allow growers to obtain what they need to be compliant, like agricultural permits and water rights.
CCV treasurer and Wonderland Nursery business manager Luke Bruner on the panel said this movement will require “a process of change and integration” where Humboldt County can show California how it can be done with a focus on small farmers. Part of integrating this “shadow community” is through social incentivization, he said.
“We want to go to school board meetings; we want to be proud of what we do,” Bruner said. Humanizing and legitimizing the responsible farmers is a step in that direction.
Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) executive director Natalynne DeLapp said the environmental damage caused by diverted rivers, pesticides and herbicides, and illegal gardens on federal and state land have a severe impact on Humboldt County.
“Growers can come out into the sun” and be responsible if there is a process in place, which would decentivize illegal growing and water diversions. This would also put those penalties into civil courts rather than criminal, which is also a step in a better direction, DeLapp said.
District attorney-elect Maggie Fleming said during the forum that she would prefer the federal government move on the cannabis issue. She noted that “some come here for greed” and her “goal and hope” is that regulations will enable permitting.
Several members of the audience asked questions, but time ran out before more than half of the line was able to address the panel.
The panel members:
• Kevin Jodrey, founder and cultivation director of Wonderland Nursery and co-founder of the Golden Tarp Award and TheGanjier.com
• Mike Downey, sheriff of Humboldt County
• Natalynne DeLapp, executive director of Environmental Protection Information Center
• Luke Bruner, treasurer of California Cannabis Voice Humboldt and business manager of Wonderland Nursery
• Maggie Fleming, district attorney-elect of Humboldt County
• Richard Marks, community organizer for CCV, treasurer of Humboldt Domestic Violence Services, president of the Mad River Softball Association, and president of the Humboldt Bay Recreation and Conservation District Board of Commissioners.