A State Assembly bill amends medical marijuana licensing types to include one that’s especially relevant to Humboldt County — a “specialty cottage” license for cultivators who are considered “micro-farmers.”
Assembly Bill 2516, sponsored by North Coast Assemblymember Jim Wood, sets forth a variety of license types for medical marijuana cultivation, ranging from one-acre natural light outdoor grows to the recently-added specialty cottage license.
It applies to grows with up to 2,500 square feet of canopy that use a mix of natural and supplemental artificial light. Up to 25 outdoor plants would be allowed and the size threshold for indoor grows is 500 square feet.
The bill was passed by the Assembly Agriculture Committee last week and is now being considered by the Business and Professions Committee.
In an April 13 press release, Wood described the specialty license as “an important measure to support the small farm cannabis growers on the North Coast.” The bill itself builds on last year’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), which Wood co-sponsored.
But the MMRSA’s cultivation standards didn’t account for micro-farming. “It is not fair to require the small cannabis farmers to adhere to the same standards as larger operations,” Wood said in the release.
The new bill leaves it up to the California Department of Food and Agriculture to develop regulations for the various license types, including the specialty cottage license.
“Creating a new license for small cannabis farmers will help maximize the number of growers that come into compliance with the MMRSA regulations and sustain many of the farmers who have been in business for years,” said Wood.
Humboldt County’s recently-implemented commercial medical marijuana ordinance includes a similar permit category for small-scale, organic “artisanal” marijuana. It’s modelled after the “Humboldt Heritage” permit proposed during hearings by Robert Sutherland of the Humboldt Mendocino Marijuana Advocacy Project (HUMMAP).
Asked for an opinion on Wood’s amendment, Sutherland said it’s “moving in the right direction” but HUMMAP would like to see some of the proposed Humboldt Heritage elements — such as a requirement to reside on the property where medical marijuana is being grown and 100 percent natural lighting — be included.
“It would be nice to have parallel programs — if we can work with both the county and the state to achieve uniformity, it bodes better in the long run,” Sutherland said.
He believes the MMRSA and other state-level bills overly accommodate “big dispensary owners with a lot of money wanting to make a lot more money” and displace small-scale growers.
“So perhaps this recognition of small growers signals that someday, we might really have a viable industry,” Sutherland continued, although he added that allowing mixed lighting is a “vexing issue” due to off-grid use of generators.
AB 2516 is supported by the California Growers Association, which pushed for the language on having up to 25 outdoor plants allowed under a specialty cottage license.