Redway >> At the Garberville Rotary Club meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 20, Andy Barnett introduced speaker Richard Marks, executive director of California Cannabis Voice Humboldt.
Marks is a commissioner of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District and a director of the Northcoast Rail Authority.
Marks said he has seen the effects of cannabis in this county for years and wants to see that people can cultivate in a manner that can be legal with proper permits, and those who cultivate with bad habits can be regulated.
Marks said the initiative ordinance would create revenue. “What we are proposing right now is per square foot of canopy that people are growing, this is outdoor grows in the woods, what we are proposing is $1 per square foot, which if you had 10,000 square that is $10,000 permitting process with the county,” he explained. Marks estimated there are 4,500 commercial outdoor growers, and said a lot of people want to come out of the shadows and pay taxes.
Marks said the ordinance would create jobs and cited Wonderland Nursery in Garberville that employs 10 people as an example.
He said the Harbor District has identified tourist excursion tours for cannabis and one is already planned for Southern Humboldt that will take people to a farm for a sustainably grown lunch and “also to have them partake at whatever level they want to have as far as the tour.”
Marks said that water can be trucked down from the Mad River to augment water supplies. He said the Harbor District is working on that, and the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water district is waiting with open arms.
When Marks asked for questions from the Rotarians, Peter Connolly said the streams in his neighborhood are getting sucked dry and asked if there was anything in the ordinance that would help the problem of water use. Marks explained people in the process of getting the proper permits would get a green dot on their property on county maps and those not in the process would get red dots. “It’s going to make it a lot easier for the law enforcement to find out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys,” Marks said.
Connolly acknowledged that it was a good first step to see where people were getting their water, but said with the prices of pot going down, he was not sure people were going to pay for all that.
“As far as Humboldt County is concerned, we’re at a critical time to actually try to protect our brand, that brand being Humboldt cannabis,” Marks responded. “So we’re hoping to supply that avenue of unique proof that you have Humboldt cannabis. By having proper permits at the county level you’re going to have a paper trail.”
Marks admitted that this has been a rough year for fair market value, but said that Humboldt needs to start marketing its cannabis as a boutique industry.
“Once it gets to the state level, it’s going to be a whole different ballgame,” he warned.
Ordinance not available
The ordinance is in its sixth iteration and was not available at the meeting or by deadline. The previous version of the proposed ordinance is available on the California Cannabis Humboldt website.
The fifth version of the ordinance has wording that seems to say compliance with the ordinance is voluntary, but Marks said in an interview later he was not sure if that will be in the sixth draft.
Under the California initiative process if 10 percent of the voters who voted in the last governor’s election sign a petition in favor of the ordinance (in this case about 4,000 people), it can be taken to the county board of supervisors for their approval. If the supervisors vote to accept it, the ordinance goes into effect without going through any California Environemental Quality Act (CEQA) review or any public review process.
Voter-driven initiatives are exempt from CEQA review. Marks said CCVH has added wording that would allow the supervisors to amend the ordinance before approval. Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell was unavailable for comment by deadline.
If the supervisors do not approve the ordinance there is a process for getting it on the ballot for the next election.
Dan Ehresman of the Northcoast Environmental Center, who was at the two CCVH invitation only stakeholders meetings in November said, “Trying to move a pretty large-scale land use ordinance that would enact pretty significant changes as an initiative is greatly concerning.”
Ehresman pointed out that when going through the county’s open public process people can request any input that is given about a proposed ordinance and get it. “With the CCVH process, a private process, people can request it but they are not required to give it,” Ehresman said. “The process itself seems very problematic.”
Ehresman said in an interview that he has met with CCVH recently to share his concerns about the process, and his other concerns with the ordinance.
CCVH’s website timeline indicates that signature gathering will take place in February and Marks said he hopes the final version of the CCVH’s ordinance is available by Feb. 1. Asked how the public will be notified and where they can read the ordinance before they are asked to sign the petition, Marks said he will probably use social media.
Filing for tax exempt status
California Cannabis Voice Humboldt (CCVH) has filed articles of incorporation with the state of California and for 501(c)(4) status as a tax exempt corporation for social welfare and, as Marks explained in an interview after the meeting, is becoming a separate entity from the statewide California Cannabis Voice political action committee.
Marks explained the CCVH board consists of 10 people who were chosen by two CCVH signatories, Luke Bruner of Wonderland Nursery in Garberville and Johnny Perricone, at a summit meeting at the Emerald Cup with CCV founders Terrence Alan and Matt Kumin. Lelehnia Dubois is the president of the newly appointed board and she was at the Rotary meeting with Marks, along with Bruner.