Cannabis Workshops Getting Results

By
Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Blue Lake workshopFor nearly 40 years, EPIC has been at the forefront of forest protection, ensuring that state and federal agencies follow their mandate to uphold environmental laws to protect forestlands, water quality and endangered species from industrial land management activities. During the past decade, we witnessed an increase in cannabis agriculture as it spread across forestlands previously devastated by industrial timber management. Unfortunately, until very recently, the political will did not exist within state government to have the conversations to address the expanding, unregulated cannabis industry, and its environmental and social impacts. After years of effort, as of January 1, 2016, California and Humboldt County now have laws to regulate commercial cannabis agriculture.

These days, one of EPIC’s projects is working with environmental groups, local businesses, and county and state agencies to educate people about new cannabis laws and regulations. In particular, we are working with Mad River Alliance and Humboldt Green to host a series of six informational workshops, all across Humboldt County, that are designed to provide educational resources for cannabis farmers to achieve responsible land stewardship and come into compliance with state, regional and local enviromental laws. We are doing this because it will be good for our community and our environment.

At these workshops, there are presentations by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and experts on state and county laws to answer citizen’s questions.

Front Page Compliance Handbook 2016People attending the workshops received the 2016 Compliance Handbook outlining these new laws including California’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, the Humboldt County Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Waiver of Waste Discharge for Cannabis.

The 2016 Compliance Handbook was created by EPIC in conjunction with Mad River Alliance, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Department of Fish & Wildlife and County of Humboldt. Creating this handbook was a labor of love. We simplified hundreds of pages of regulations into 22 pages—into the essence of what is needed for people to understand and comply with the law. The Compliance Manual can be downloaded here.

So far, we have presented to more than 365 people at four workshops and given out more than 1,000 Compliance Handbooks—and we have two more to go! So far, it appears that the workshops are making a difference, in the North Coast Region, 372 people have enrolled under the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Waiver of Waste Discharge—with nearly two thirds of those coming from Humboldt County! While it is heartening to see that some farmers are coming into compliance with the new laws, we are only just beginning to scratch the surface—there are an estimated 15,000 cannabis farms between Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity Counties!

Why is EPIC doing these workshops? We are doing this because we are a part of this community and we are working on this project because we want to see people in this region become part of the solution. We want to help people navigate this task and series of laws and ordinances because it will be good for the environment. We believe it honors the original spirit of the back-to-land people and founding farmers of this unique region and we hope it will help to keep our families and communities safer as we move into the future.

For the past few years, EPIC has been fully engaged in the dialogue, deliberation and education as to the problems associated with unregulated cannabis. We have worked with cannabis farmers, conservationists, government officials, members of the public and many others seeking to find solutions that will help shape the industry’s future with legal, responsible social and environmental values. We see 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. Throughout the public processes that have unfolded, EPIC has been participating on behalf of our membership and the environment. We expressed our views and needs, and provided input and expertise; we understand why various decisions were made, and once the processes were completed we found that we could accept the directions that were set as the best way for our community to move forward.

We fully acknowledge that these regulations and laws are not perfect and are incomplete. The community must continue to work together to provide feedback to agencies and elected officials as the implementation of the new rules are seen to either be effective or ineffective, and amendments are required to bolster the efficacy of the laws and regulations. As this new paradigm of legal commercial medical cannabis unfolds, EPIC will be ever watchful ensuring that environmental laws are upheld, while at the same time available to work with anyone or any group who is sincere in promoting environmentally responsible cannabis cultivation.