Thursday, October 8, 2015

Humboldt County Releases a Draft Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 11:24 AM

click to enlarge GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
Just weeks after the board of supervisors agreed to take on the creation of an outdoor medical marijuana cultivation ordinance, county staff has released a detailed draft ordinance that would create a strict permitting plan for the county's cannabis cultivators.

It’s a remarkably fast turnaround for a staff that shared concerns that it would be able to get a law on the books by next year when California Cannabis Voice Humboldt handed its draft ordinance over to the county on Sept. 15. During that board meeting, CCVH treasurer Luke Bruner urged the county to take action to regulate outdoor cannabis grows, while saying his organization would relinquish its year-long, multi-draft attempt to create a law — which at one point CCVH said it would put before voters if the county didn’t approve it.

At the meeting, county staff and supervisors said it would be difficult to draft a law, put it through the public vetting process and enact it by March 1, when state senate and assembly medical marijuana regulations will go into effect (if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, as expected).

But the quick release of the draft ordinance, accompanied by a 66-page mitigated negative declaration, indicates the county may have been working on its own law for some time. Supervisors Estelle Fennell and Ryan Sundberg have reportedly been working to create outdoor cultivation regulations, so it’s possible this is the fruit of that labor.

The draft itself doesn’t read much like the final iteration of the CCVH draft, which numbs some speculation that the county would use the CCVH ordinance as a framework for its own, especially given the county’s late start. (CCVH declined to comment on the county’s draft.) The ordinance also mentions the package of statewide bills, clearly anticipating their passage.

Here's a link to the draft ordinance in its entirety,  Final_Draft_CCCMU_Ordinance_v3.2_10-1-15__1_.pdf but we've listed some of the noteworthy clauses:

• Cannabis can only be grown on certain land use zones designated agriculture exclusive or rural residential agriculture.

• Conditional use permits may be issued for grows on commercial timberland, forestry recreation or timber production zones only if the sites existed prior to Sept. 1, 2015 and are brought into compliance with state and county codes. “No use permits shall be issued for new cannabis cultivation in the [commercial timberland, forestry recreation or timber production zones].”

• Grows with cultivation areas larger than 10,000 square feet will only be allowed on general agriculture parcels 5 acres or larger with particular soils and less than 15 percent slopes. They will also have to provide documented water rights or non-diversionary water sources.

• The ordinance as drafted contains a complicated tier structure for grows located on different types of parcels and ranging up to 43,560 square feet.

• Cannabis cultivation will not be principally permitted: “The commercial cultivation of cannabis for medical use shall not be allowed as a principal permitted use under the General Agriculture use type classification applicable within the County of Humboldt, unless a conditional zoning clearance, conditional special permit, or conditional use permit is first obtained from the County of Humboldt, and the person engaged in such activity has obtained all state licenses and permits which may be required by the applicable state licensing authorities.”

• Permit applications will require detailed cultivation plans, photos of the operation prior to Sept. 1 2015, consent of parcel owners, setback plans, consent for onsite inspections, and agreement not to divert water between March 1 and Oct. 30.

• The ordinance also contains the following passage, which reads somewhat nebulous and seems difficult to enforce:
“The commercial cultivation of cannabis for medical use shall at all times be operated in such a way as to ensure the health and safety of employees, independent contractors, visitors to the area, neighboring property owners, and end users of medical marijuana, to protect the environment from harm to streams, fish, and wildlife; to ensure the security of the medical marijuana; and to safeguard against the diversion of medical marijuana for non-medical purposes.”

The bill will be reviewed both by the county planning commission and the board of supervisors, allowing the public to comment. 
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Grant Scott-Goforth

Grant Scott-Goforth has been an assistant editor and staff writer for The Journal since 2013.

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