County Opens Medical Marijuana Business Permitting

The county is inviting those involved in the medical marijuana industry to “become one of the first” to apply for business permits.

A county press release announces that on Feb. 26, growers, manufacturers and distributors of medical marijuana can “take part in making history by applying to have your medical marijuana business permitted in the unincorporated areas of Humboldt County.”

The date marks the day that the county’s new commercial medical marijuana ordinance takes effect, which makes Humboldt “the first county in the state to develop a comprehensive local regulatory system that is in line with recently passed state law,” according to the county’s release.

The county’s ordinance follows up on the state’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which took effect Jan. 1 and sets forth a licensing structure for operation of medical marijuana-related businesses.

The state law requires both local permits and state licenses, but the licenses aren’t expected to be available until 2018. The release states that one advantage of gaining local permits now is that “those who are considered to be in good standing with their local jurisdiction will be first in line for those licenses.”

A payment deposit is required when applying for a permit. The three permit categories are based on parcel zoning and grow area sizes, with the deposit for a ministerial permit, the most basic category, amounting to about $870.

Special permits involve noticing nearby property owners and a deposit of about $1,800 is required. Conditional use permits require public hearings and the deposit amounts to about $2,600.

Additional charges ensure if the cost of permit processing exceeds the deposit amount.

The ordinance sets different standards for new and existing grows, with documentation of having grows in place as of Jan. 1, 2016 required for those applying in the existing grow category.

Evidence of property ownership or leasing, a parcel site plan and an operations plan describing aspects like water use and site drainage are also required.

Growers also need to show that other required permits, such as those from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, have been gained and indoor cultivators need to identify their sources of electrical power.

The permits only cover the inland portion of the county unincorporated area at this point. The county’s regulations within its coastal zone — which generally extends 1,000 yards inland from the mean high tide line — are awaiting approval from the state’s Coastal Commission.

The county’s Planning and Building Department has set up a “dedicated 24-hour hotline” at 268-3795 to field questions on the process, with staff answering questions and returning calls during business hours.

“This is new ground for everyone, so there are bound to be some bumps in the road,” Interim Planning Director Rob Wall said in the release. “However, we are dedicated to making this successful and supporting applicants in any way possible. We want to make sure you have everything you need and answer any questions you have during the permitting process.”

The window for permit applications closes on Dec. 31 but the Board of Supervisors has the option to extend it.