State pot offices to open in Times-Standard building in Eureka

Site to accept fee payments, offer compliance info

Four state offices, including the state Bureau of Cannabis Control now have local staff at new offices in the Times-Standard building in Eureka. (Times-Standard file)
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New regional offices for four state of California departments have been established at the Times-Standard building in Sixth Street in Eureka and three of those offices will be open for business today.

The building, owned by the Carrington Company, will host the North Coast regional offices of the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control, Department of Food and Agriculture, Department of Public Health, and Water Resources Control Board.

The location provides a one-stop shop for local residents particularly as it relates to the cannabis industry. For one local cannabis retailer, having a local presence of state regulators can only help in the long run.

“It’s to have a local office where you can talk face-to-face with people,” said Jeff Poel, owner of EcoCann dispensary in downtown Eureka. “I worked for the government for a long time and direct contact is the best way to do business.”

The Water Resources Control Board office is slated to open May 3. The agency’s staff will spend the bulk of its time in the field inspecting properties to ensure they are compliant with state law.

“We won’t have guaranteed office hours unless people make appointments,” said Mona Dougherty, senior water resources engineer, who will supervise the staff of inspectors. “We have staff inspectors who will review plans and assist enrollees with compliance with the Cannabis Control Order.”

Residents with business with the WQCB will be able to make appointments with staff for drop-in appointments at the new office to answer questions and provide assistance.

Dougherty said the new office gives the water board a presence in Northern California. It will focus solely on cannabis-related issues and permitting.

“We’ve been wanting an office in Northern California for decades,” Dougherty said. “This is a way for us to have staff located where growers can speak to staff but as for other issues, we don’t have the staff for that.”

Dougherty said that if residents want to check hard copies of records, it will still require a trip to Santa Rosa, although the local office will have access to electronic records.

For Poel, having regulators and inspectors who become familiar with the community and the local cannabis business is good business for everyone involved.

“The state is constantly changing the rules, but the main thing is having an agency present to level the playing field,” Poel said. “I’m a former regulator and I am as compliant as I can be and then you have your competition who doesn’t collect sales tax or who does other unethical things. I used to be the ref, and if one guy was playing by the rules and so was his competitor, well, may the best man win. But I have one competitor who wasn’t paying sales tax, meaning they could sell their product for 8.5 percent below mine. How am I supposed to compete with that? Having the referees out here in the field, that’s a huge thing for the people who are doing it the right way.”

Office security will be provided by SVT Security and an area where a fleet of state vehicles will be stored has been built as well.

“The opening of this larger office allows us to provide greater service to our applicants and licensees in the North Coast Region,” Bureau Chief Lori Ajax said in a news release announcing the opening. “One of the important benefits of this office is that the public can come to one location and have access to staff from four state agencies involved in the commercial cannabis licensing process.”

Members of the public may pay their fees, submit license applications, and have questions answered in person at the location. The office will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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