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The Forest for the Trees 


Amy Gustin's opinion piece in the NCJ ("Cannabis Crossroads," Aug. 6) suggests that the upcoming marijuana ordinance for Humboldt County parcels five acres and larger should be designed to reduce the amount grown. "We have much to gain by scaling back marijuana production" she says, citing the small amount of "native habitat" remaining here, and its importance to "Humboldt's largest species."

She is barking up the wrong plant here. Humboldt County encompasses 2,283,520 acres of land. Of this land, Wikipedia tells us, nearly 1.5 million acres is in public or private timber production, and we produce 20 percent of the volume and 30 percent of the value of all forest products in the state. Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey estimated we have 4,100 marijuana gardens. It is doubtful that any of these is as large as 1 acre, and the argument over garden sizes allowed in the proposed ordinance tops out at 1/4 acre (10,000 square feet).

Giving every benefit of the doubt to Amy's argument, let's say that the average area of the marijuana gardens is 1 acre. That amounts to two-tenths of 1 percent of the land in the county. Commercial forestry occupies 375 times as much land, and is actively working it. Over half of the entire county is commercial forest lands. Which activity impacts habitat more? There is little point in expending environmentalists' energy on marijuana unless they are satisfied that forestry is operating as they wish.

Long-time environmentalists will recognize the habitat argument as carried over from opposition to logging. It made some sense in that context. It makes no sense in the marijuana context. The real argument over the garden sizes in the ordinance concerns mom-and-pop marijuana producers versus large or "corporate" producers, and the discussion will create a better result if it is conducted on that ground rather than bringing in a kind of kitchen sink collection of possible reasons to bolster one side or the other.

Ed Denson, Alderpoint

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