What’s Mixed Light? The Apparent Conflict Between CDFA’s Regs and he Humboldt County Cannabis Ordinance

What is mixed light cultivation? Apparently, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the Humboldt County Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance (CMMLUO) can’t even agree on a uniform definition. The conflicting definition of mixed light arises in how the CDFA regulations included “light deprivation” within the definition of “mixed light,” whereas the CMMLOU does not include “light deprivation’ within its definition of “mixed light.”  

According, to the County, “light deprivation” does not utilize artificial lighting and therefore does not fall under the definition of mixed light. The CMMLUO defines mixed light as “cultivation using a combination of natural and supplemental artificial lighting at a maximum threshold as set forth in performance standards in Section 55.4.11. (v) et seq. of this ordinance, or as to be determined by the Department of Food and Agricultural, whichever is less.”

The maximum threshold set forth in the performance standards at 55.4.11 (v) proscribes light escaping from greenhouses which is visible from neighboring properties between sunset and sunrise. The next subsection provides that the light source should comply with International Dark Sky Associations standards for Lighting Zone 0 and Lighting Zone 1 and should be designed to regulate light spillage onto neighboring properties.

“Threshold” is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as a level, point, or value above which something is true or will take place and below which it is not or will not.

Read with this definition in mind, the CMMLUO definition of mixed light says that the amount of supplemental artificial light used in mixed light must not be greater (maximum) than the amount that would result in light escaping from greenhouses which is visible from neighboring properties between sunset and sunrise.

The definition goes on to say that the maximum threshold can either be determined by the performance standards, or by the CDFA, “whichever is less.” The “whichever is less” clause seems to imply that the  CDFA can set a lower maximum threshold for artificial supplemental lighting then provided for in the performance standards for the cultivation type to be defined as “mixed light.”

Lo and behold, the CDFA did set a lower maximum threshold for supplemental artificial lighting than the performance standards: None. CDFA defines “Mixed Light Cultivation” as cultivation of mature cannabis in a greenhouse, hoop-house, glasshouse, conservatory, hothouse, or other similar structure using light deprivation and/or one of the artificial lighting methods … (1) the use of artificial light at a rate of six watts per square foot or less … (2) the use of artificial light at a rate above six and below or equal to twenty-five watts per square foot.

Light deprivation does not (generally) utilize artificial supplemental lighting. So, if CDFA’s definition of mixed light includes light deprivation, then is the maximum threshold of artificial light emanating from a greenhouse is zero under the County’s definition?

The answer is unclear. According to discussions with County Planning, CDFA’s definition of mixed light will not affect the County’s categorization of light deprivation as outdoor cultivation. Per the County, if an applicant has been issued a permit for an outdoor cultivation using light deprivation techniques and applies for a mixed light permit at the State level, the County will confirm that the applicant is in compliance with the local jurisdiction. Therefore, the State would (theoretically) not deny a licensee a permit.

Whether this apparent conflict between the County and State definitions of mixed light cultivation will create problems remains to be seen. More murk in an otherwise unknown area of law. Welcome to the world of cannabis regulation!