A medical marijuana “track and trace” pilot program will be an administrative experiment but one aspect will be standard — the charging of agricultural inspection and certification fees.
The issue of whether to charge standard agricultural services fees to cultivators, distributors and dispensaries participating in the pilot program was settled at the April 26 Board of Supervisors meeting, with supervisors agreeing to charge for the services.
County Administrative Officer Amy Nilsen told supervisors that to waive the fees for participants in the experimental program would equate to subsidizing the agricultural inspections and certifications.
The fees cover staff time for the services and are allowed under the county’s recently-approved commercial medical marijuana ordinance, she continued.
Nilsen said waiving the fees would require covering the agricultural staffing costs through the county’s General Fund. She estimated the costs to be $100,000.
Supervisor Estelle Fennell said the pilot program should include the cost recovery structure set forth in the county’s ordinance.
“In order to test how the system works — this is part of the system,” she continued. “It’s all part of finding out what the whole program is like on the ground.”
Last month, the county’s agricultural commissioner was given the go-ahead to evaluate and accept a proposal for the pilot program.
The proposal will be developed by SICPA Security LLC, a global company whose product evaluation work includes California’s taxation of tobacco products.
Tracking and tracing can facilitate taxation, give consumers detailed information and prove that Humboldt product is actually from here through “proof-of-origin stamps” affixed to products that are offered to consumers.
Development of a pilot project will be done by July, implemented through November and then evaluated. SICPA is offering to carry out the program at no cost to the county.
The pilot program was described as a means of carrying out inspections and other agricultural services prior to doing them under a county permitting program.
County Agricultural Commissioner Jeff Dolf said the pilot program has drawn the participation of 12 cultivators and two distributors. A list of participating dispensaries is being “finalized,” he added.
Dolf said his office will “learn and develop” an ability to administer a track and trace program for an industry that is entering the mainstream of state and county permitting.
“We’re trying to build trust with those members of the medical cannabis community that are learning to work with government and part of that is also building trust and learning from them,” he continued.
Dolf added that inspection and certification fees specific to commercial medical marijuana permits will eventually be approved by the board.