Humboldt County Commercial Medical Cannabis Ordinance 2.0 is Coming!

For those of you who missed the boat on applying for a permit for new or existing cultivation last December, you may be getting another chance.

In April, Humboldt County released a document titled, “Proposed Ordinance Policy Areas and Discussion Items” (“Policy Areas”) for a planned update to the Humboldt County Commercial Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance (“CMMLUO”), that will reopen the permitting process to new and existing cultivators. Rumor has it that a draft of the updated CMMLUO provisions will be released for public comment on August 11 of this year.  If the document available on the County’s website are any indication of what will be in the updated ordinance, there are some major changes coming to what and how cannabis projects will be permitted by the County.

  • The first major change affects new cultivators. New cultivation will no longer have to take place on parcels with, and in areas of, prime agricultural soil. Rather, new cultivation will be permitted in designated zones on parcels with slopes of 15% or less.  
  • The second major change affects mixed light cultivators and nurseries. The old ordinance was silent with respect to power sources for mixed light cultivation and nurseries. According to the Policy Areas document, the new ordinance will principally permit mixed light and nursery operations if 100% of the power source for these operations come from on grid power or on-site renewable energy sources (i.e. solar, wind). Applications for mixed light and nurseries will be under discretionary permitting if less than 80% of the power source comes from on grid or on-site renewable energy.
  • The third major change affects all cultivators. The Policy Areas state that the new ordinance will now require that category 4 road standards be met for all roads leading to cultivation sites. However, cultivation sites located along publicly maintained roads will not have to be analyzed to determine whether the public road meets the category 4 standards. The County may also require cultivators to establish Road Maintenance Associations for private roads that serve three or more cultivation sites.
  • Another major change that affects all cultivators is new water source and storage requirements. First, the Policy Areas document states that there may be a forbearance period where cultivators cannot pull irrigation water from wells. Second, ponds will now be required to be drained at the end of the season to prevent invasive species habitation. The ponds will also have to be adequately fenced and provide pathways for wildlife. Third, storage bladders for cannabis cultivation will be allowed with certain conditions. The conditions include minimum secondary containment consisting of a contiguous earthen berm around the perimeter of the bladder that extends at least one foot above the height of the enclosed bladder when full.
  • Lastly, the new ordinance will have some quick deadlines to make application for permits. For new cultivation on existing sites, there is a six-month deadline from the effective date of the new regulations to apply for a permit. For eligible existing sites not previously permitted, there is a three-month deadline from the effective date of the new regulations to apply for a permit. Bottom line, cultivators will have less time to decide whether to come into compliance under the new ordinance.

Note: Cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance under Federal law. The cultivation, manufacture, distribution, and transportation of cannabis is a felony and could expose offenders to civil and criminal liability. The above blog entry is only intended as informational, and does not constitute legal advice. If you are interested in receiving advice on compliance with California state law with respect to cannabis, contact the attorneys at Janssen Malloy LLP.