Workshops Offer Help on New Marijuana Regulations

With county permitting for medical marijuana businesses under way, a local non-profit advocacy group has joined with other groups and agencies to present a series of regulation compliance workshops.

The workshop-format educational opportunities were described to the Board of Supervisors at its March 8 meeting. Natalynne DeLapp of the Environmental Protection Information Center said organization of the series of workshops was a team effort involving the Mad River Alliance, the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District and the Humboldt Green consulting firm.

DeLapp said the district and Humboldt Green provided “seed money to get the workshops off the ground.” Key to the effort is production of a 2016 Cannabis Compliance Workbook, which distills reams of local and state policy language into a concise 22 pages.

Marijuana’s new legal environment is a change in course and DeLapp said the workshops seek to clarify and “maybe reduce the fear” of it. She said many people have expressed doubt about the new permitting processes and the concept of “the C-word” — compliance.

“It kind of goes against the values of a lot of our back to the land people who are very unconventional and out-of-the-box thinkers,” DeLapp continued, adding that “we’ve really been talking to them about the value of participation.”

DeLapp noted EPIC’s roots as having been formed by “many of the back to the land people that made marijuana famous here in Humboldt County” and the workshop team is outreaching to the group’s supporters.

“Maybe they’re a little concerned about how this industry is moving forward — about the commercialization of cannabis,” she said. But change is happening and the goal of the workshops is to “provide a map and a flashlight for this new path forward into legal commercial cannabis production,” DeLapp continued.

The five-and-a-half-hour workshops will be made up of four 45-minute presentations. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife will inform cultivators of species and habitat protection laws and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board will detail how its new water quality permitting works.

Pacific Watersheds Associates, a third-party inspection firm, has a presentation entitled “Transitioning From Grower to Farmer” and High Tide Permaculture will describe the best ways to store and use water.

DeLapp will also do a presentation, on the county’s commercial medical marijuana ordinance.

The first workshop was held two weeks ago at the Mad River Grange in Blue Lake and DeLapp said that to her surprise, the venue was filled to capacity with over 75 people.

Answering a question from Supervisor Estelle Fennell on what the biggest hurdle is to compliance, DeLapp said it’s the cost of doing things differently.

“There’s going to be a pretty significant need for people to really upgrade their roads, their road networks and their culverts,” she continued.

Part of the reason for that is because environmental agencies and licensed engineers have only recently interacted with cultivators, DeLapp said. “They were doing the work that they could by themselves,” she continued. “So there’s a lot of activity that’s going to have to be remediated out there in the form of real, professional grading, professional storage being developed and working to get the roads regraded — and that’s going to be very expensive.”

Participation in the new system is expected to be slow at first. Supervisor Ryan Sundberg said that he and Fennell — the board’s Medical Marijuana Subcommittee — have had meetings with state Senator Mike McGuire and “he’s been very clear that he thinks it’s going to be around 10 years before this thing really kicks in.”

But Sundberg added that participation will increase as “first responders” to the new system work within it. “It’s going to take a while but I don’t think it’s not worth doing because it’s going to take a while — we have to start somewhere,” he said.

Fennell believes progress is already steady. “We’ve seen amazing innovation in this world that’s opening up and there are a lot of people out there who will find the answers to doing it right,” she said.

Upcoming Workshops are set for March 13 at the Mateel Community Center in Redway, March 19 at the Bigfoot Country Club in Willow Creek, April 3 at the Mattole Grange in Petrolia,  April 17 at the Cannafest event at Redwood Acres in Eureka and April 24 at Ruth Lake Community Services Hall in Mad River.