Our goal is to help people come into compliance with applicable environmental and county regulations because it will be good for the environment and our communities. We believe it honors the original spirit of the back-to-land people unique to our region. We also hope it will help to keep our families and communities safer as we move into the future. To accomplish this goal, we have developed a 2016 Farmer’s Compliance Handbook, which is available to download for free below, or you can come to the EPIC office at 145 G Street, Suite A in Arcata during normal business hours to pick up a hard copy.
The Compliance handbook was created by EPIC in partnership with Mad River Alliance, Humboldt Green, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, California Department of Fish & Wildlife and Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District. This handbook condenses hundreds of pages of regulations into 22 pages. Below is only a small excerpt from the handbook of some of the basic steps that farmers will need to take to become compliant with existing regulations. PLEASE DOWNLOAD THE COMPLETE HANDBOOK HERE.
There are three main steps you need to take to legalize your cannabis farm:
1. Register your farm with the County:
Humboldt County has established a registration program for cannabis cultivators. This program has two purposes. First, this program is necessary for all farmers seeking recognized of cultivation activities that occurred on or before January 1, 2016. The deadline to submit your registration to be recognized as an existing operation is August 24, 2016. Second, by registering with the County, you permit the County to establish that you are in “good standing,” which may make you eligible for priority processing of your state license application.
*To download a commercial cannabis activity registration form, please visit: http://bit.ly/20TNGzZ
2. Apply for a permit from the Humboldt County Planning & Building Department:
All commercial cultivation, processing, manufacture, or distribution of cannabis requires some form of certification that your operation is appropriately permitted, either in the form of a Zoning Clearance Certificate, Special Permit, or Use Permit. This requires two steps:
(A) Determine what type of certificate or permit you will need. There are five types of permits: cultivation, processing, manufacturing, distribution and nursery.
(B) Meet standard application requirements.
*Applications are available at the Humboldt County Planning & Building Department website: http://www.humboldtgov.org/DocumentCenter/View/340
3. Meet all Performance Standards:
All cannabis farms must adhere to County performance standards. Failure to meet these standards may result in license revocation and substantial fines. These standards begin on page 3 of the Compliance Handbook and include but are not limited to:
Compliance Agreements and Provisional Licensing: Cannabis cultivation shall be conducted in compliance with all laws. If upon inspection for the initial application, violations of are discovered, an approved Compliance Agreement must be signed by the applicant, and the relevant enforcement agencies, to cure violations as soon as possible, but in no more than two years of date of issuance of a provisional permit.
Valid State License(s): Possession of a current, valid required State Medical Marijuana license(s) issued in accordance with the MMRSA.
Water Sources: Generally, water used for cultivation of cannabis needs to be sourced on-site from a permitted well or diversion. With water diversions or withdrawals substantially altering a waterbody’s bed, bank or channel, a Streambed Alteration Permit may be required.
- For information regarding surface water visit: http://calsalmon.org/programs/water-rights-education
- For information regarding well water visit: http://bit.ly/1SGUTCr
- For streambed alteration permits visit: http:bit.ly/23VJL8b
- Bulk Water Trucking is prohibited, except for emergencies defined as “a sudden, unexpected occurrence demanding immediate action.”
Helpful Agencies, Consultants, and Organizations
If you need assistance to come into compliance, a number of consultants are available to help you through the regulatory process:
Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation: http://bmmr.dca.ca.gov/
North Coast Water Quality Control Board: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/northcoast/water_issues/programs/cannabis/
California Department of Fish and Wildlife, David Manthorne, (707) 441-5900, firstname.lastname@example.org
State Water Resources Control Board: http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/diversion_use/
Humboldt County Planning & Building http://www.humboldtgov.org/2159/Medical-Marijuana- Permits Cannabis Hotline: (707) 268-3795
Humboldt County Agriculture Commissioner: 707-441-5260
Humboldt County Environmental Health: 707-445-6215
GHD Engineering: (707) 443-8326
Omsberg & Preston Engineering: (707) 443-8651
Manhard Consulting, Ltd.: (707) 444-3800
Pacific Watersheds Associates: (707) 839-5130
SHN Engineering & Geologists: (707) 441-8855
Timberland Resource Consultants: (707) 725-1897
AgDynamix: (707) 502-0217 www.AgDynamix.com
Compliant Farms: (707) 502-4870 hightidepermaculture.com
Green Road Consulting Engineers: (707) 479-5646
High Tide Permaculture: (707) 633-5403 Hightidepermaculture@gmail.com
Hollie Hall and Associates: (707) 502-4870 http://www.holliehall.com
Humboldt Green: (707) 362-6511 www.Humboldt.Green
Samara Restoration: (707) 601-3478 www.samararestoration.com
Verdant Bridge Enterprise, Ron Mattson: (707) 720-7647
Beneficial Living Center, Seth Geddes: (707) 633-6125 beneficiallivingcenter.com
DBS Agricultural Consulting and Analysis: (707) 633-8885 www.dbsanalytics.com
BioVortex Living Soil Specialist, Jesse Dodd: (707) 874-0743 email@example.com
Soilscape Solutions, Certified Soil Consultants: (707) 273-8758, www.soilscapesolutions.com
Janssen Malloy LLP: (707) 445-2071
Gallegos Law Firm: (707) 441-8477
Paul Hagen North Coast Environmental Law Office: (707) 630-5012
Tom Hicks, Attorney at Law: (415) 309-2098
Law Office of Kathleen Bryson: (707) 268-8600
Ed Denson, Attorney at Law: (707) 923-4764
Cannabis Insurance Agent
John Ford Insurance Agency: firstname.lastname@example.org
Public Interest Organizations
California Growers Association: www.calgrowersassociation.org
Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC): www.wildcalifornia.org
Sanctuary Forest: www.sanctuaryforest.org
Salmon Restoration Federation: www.calsalmon.org
Mad River Alliance: www.madriveralliance.org
In addition to the Cannabis Compliance Handbook, which can be downloaded above, you can check out Watershed Best Management Practices for Cannabis Growers and other Rural Gardeners. According to the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District, “this guide is designed to help North Coast residents take an active stewardship role in caring for their land and the common resources that are the wellspring of our communities. The guide outlines best management practices, or BMPs, for rural farming with an emphasis on cannabis cultivation. BMPs have a proven track record of protecting water, soil, land value, sensitive habitats and endangered species. By practicing BMPs, you have the power to make an immediate difference to an important ecological resource, your own backyard!”
A long time in the making, and as many feel, sorely needed, California now has a suite of new laws and regulations to address commercial medical cannabis agriculture:
California’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, Humboldt County Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance, and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Waiver of Waste Discharge for Cannabis.
These new laws as an important step to begin rectifying the environmental destruction that has become associated with unregulated cannabis cultivation, and to provide a legitimate framework for legal economic activity that can benefit farmers and the general public. Hopefully now the divide between cultivators, regulators, and communities can start to close, and mutual distrust begin to fade, as we work together to shape the industry’s future with responsible social and environmental values. Yet the question remains—How do farmers participate and should they? —Is it safe?
“Why should I comply; why participate?”
Speaking directly to the farmers, here’s why EPIC thinks you should participate in this new regulated marketplace: Farms that participate will adhere to standards that ensure that they are good environmental stewards; Farms that participate will be contributing more economically to this region as good businesses; Farms that participate will honor the craft and heritage of cannabis farming; and Farms that participate will not be targeted by police.
Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity County, affectionately known as the “Emerald Triangle” needs leaders—brave people to participate in California’s new paradigm of legal commercial medical cannabis, and help shape its future. The Founding Farmers who established cannabis on the North Coast forty years ago, brought a passion for unconventional thinking, a sense of community and environmental sustainability, and an ideal that there was a better, simpler way to be had by living in balance with the land. It is those values that make the region unique, and that must be integrated into the future commercialization of medical cannabis.
Participation is key.
Participate because you love the forests, rivers and the environment and you want it to show!
You’ve heard about the problems with cannabis production—the light and water pollution, water withdrawals that suck creeks dry, rat poison killing endangered species, fragmentation of our forests and ecosystems—now is the time to do it right. The best way to ensure you are up to snuff and to show your neighbors you care is to learn about and use best practices and then to come into compliance with new cannabis ordinances and regulations.
Enrolling with the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, either directly with them or through a registered third party will help improve water quality, increase available water in streams, creeks and rivers, and begin to reduce long-standing legacy problems associated with liquidation logging practices and cannabis cultivation. The Order establishes Standard Conditions to protect water quality, and when used in conjunction with Best Management Practices, cultivators are provided a framework to assess their property and determine what management measures are necessary to protect water quality—it also enables the Regional Water Board to better focus its enforcement resources on environmentally damaging operations.
Farmers are also encouraged to work with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to create Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreements (LSAA) that address stream diversions and water storage in order to ensure there is enough water to protect aquatic ecosystems for cold water sensitive species such as coho salmon, steelhead trout, southern torrent salamander, and red-legged frog.
Participate because it’s good business and you are a good businessperson!
Everyone knows: we are in the middle of a paradigm shift when it comes to cannabis. In California, and across the country, the entire system for how cannabis is addressed and viewed is shifting. In California, it is now LEGAL to grow medical cannabis for profit as defined by state law. Nationwide, 23 states have adopted medical cannabis laws, and a few bold states have even legalized recreational production and use!
Embrace the new regulations because it will enable you to be at the head of the curve. As recreational legalization comes—and it will come—you will have a leg up on competitors and will be primed for coveted state production licenses. And as lands and farms come into compliance with the new laws, they gain value. If one day in the future a farmer wants to sell their business, a fully compliant, permitted and licensed farm will fetch top dollar.
Participate to honor the knowledge and craft of North Coast growers!
The Emerald Triangle has a reputation for high-quality cannabis. And it is well earned. It takes skill and expertise to produce and develop a high-quality product. North Coast growers operating in the shadows of the law developed many ground-breaking strains, including those with well-known medicinal properties, such as high-CBD strains.
Today, growers can step out of the shadows and be proud of their craft. The new county regulation provides for special branding of “Heritage Humboldt” cannabis for farmers who have less than 3,000 ft2 of cultivation area, reside on the same property as the cultivation site, is grown exclusively with natural light, and meets organic standards. Celebrate the history of the region and the folks who have risked it all by participating.
Participate because you don’t want the police knocking at your door!
We have come a long way, fast. The legal landscape today is different than just a few years ago. People at the highest level of government—Sen. Wood and Rep. McGuire, the Humboldt Board of Supervisors, County Sheriff, Agricultural Commissioner, and District Attorney—are taking the lead in the state of California to develop a land use law that was designed to meet the needs of the small cannabis farmer, protect water, fish and forest resources. They want to work with their constituents. They did not say no or ban it. They worked at breakneck speeds (something highly unusual for government) to create a system of laws to protect and nurture the industry.
Farmers who want to sit on the sidelines and see how this all will play out will become “red dots”—targeted for enforcement because they are operating outside of state law. Cannabis farmers who participate will become a “green dot” on the map of law enforcement; instead of cops with guns tearing out plants, bureaucrats with clipboards will come by to measure distance of plants to rivers and to check water levels in your storage tanks.
We are here to help you!
Participation is not always easy. That’s why we are here. We know that the plethora of new laws and ordinances can be difficult to understand and follow and that’s why we’ve helped to create resources we want farmers, community members.
All photos by Jesse Dodd of BioVortex