Clicking the link above or here, you can read the text of the County’s draft of Phase I of the medical marijuana ordinance. This will be presented to the Planning Commission Thursday night at 6pm in the County Board Of Supervisors’ chambers in Eureka. Both the Humboldt Growers Association (HGA) and HuMMAP will be giving short presentations in support of this draft.
Phase I deals with strictly with dispensaries and indoor, personal-medical use in residential areas. Phase II will allow outdoor-personal-use gardens in residential areas, provide exemptions for slightly larger indoor and outdoor personal-use gardens and regulate and permit member-cultivator and collective/cooperative cultivation.
What this means is that if you are in a residential area and want to grow personal use medical marijuana outdoors, this will be covered in Phase II, so stay tuned and make your concerns known when this process begins. If you are cultivating collectively (i.e. for more than yourself) or if you want an exemption to the Phase I indoor limits for personal use in residential areas or the Phase II limits for outdoor personal use, this will be covered in the Phase II process.
While a bit confusing, this two-phase process has allowed the County to move rapidly to define personal use and regulate indoor residential cultivation, thereby beginning the process of resolving the long-standing “grow-house” controversies. Phase I includes dispensary regulation in order to streamline the stack of Conditional Use Permits now on the County’s plate by defining where a dispensary can be located and how it can operate. Phase II issues—exemptions for larger personal cultivation in residential areas and collective/cooperative cultivation in rural areas—require their own type of regulation, so are best addressed in a separate process.
Both HuMMAP and the HGA are hopeful that Phase II can proceed quickly and be in place in time for the 2012 cultivation season. Humboldt would then be one of only two counties in California (Mendocino being the other) to have fully-permitted medical cannabis, giving Humboldt growers who wish to be in the fully-legal marijuana market an advantage with dispensaries and other cannabis businesses in the state who need to only handle such fully-permitted medicine. It will also make us a leader in the industry and put permitted growers in a prime position to take advantage of legalized social/recreational marijuana use if one of the ballot initiatives passes in the November, 2012 statewide election.
This ordinance is not without its controversy, but the obvious problems have been brought up in conversations between the grower community and County Counsel and Planning staff and are being addressed. The draft below along with the staff report was sent to the printers two weeks ago so as to be available to officials in time for the August 18th, 2011 Planning Commission meeting. It therefore does not reflect recommended changes that will be presented by County Counsel at the meeting. These recommended changes came about largely through recent discussions between HGA and County Counsel and Planning Department staff, with some consultation between HGA and HuMMAP as well, to be sure we are all moving forward in agreement.
The key recommended changes that will be presented by County Counsel and supported by HGA and HuMMAP to the Planning Commission are as follows (this will make sense once you’ve read the ordinance):
1) Page 6; definition of a School – This definition will be stricken from the draft prior to submittal to the Board of Supervisors.
2) Section 8, (B), pg. 11 – States that a medical marijuana CCDF may not be operated by or employ any persons who have been convicted of a felony or who are currently on probation. This will be amended to allow an exemption for persons convicted of a marijuana-related felony or those who are currently on probation for a marijuana-related felony that occurred before SB 420 was adopted.
3) Section 8, (C), pg. 11 – States that no medical marijuana may be dispensed to an individual qualified patient more than once per day. This will be amended to allow CCDFs to dispense medical marijuana no more than two (2) times per day to an individual qualified patient. This amendment will create consistency throughout the county, since both Eureka and Arcata allow CCDFs to dispense two (2) times per day to an individual qualified patient.
4) Section 55.1.21 Medical Marijuana Research Laboratories and Testing Facilities – Additional language will be added to this section to clarify that these facilities shall only have minimal amounts of medicine on site at any given time.
Additionally, Deputy County Counsel Davina Smith and HGA are working on a recommendation that other felonies should have a sunset clause, allowing convicted felons to still acquire a dispensary or collective cultivation permit after a certain amount of time has passed. HuMMAP also supports this, believing that one’s past mistakes should not follow them forever. We’ll post the details here when the language gets finalized.
Below are a few clarifications on the Phase I draft to help the public better understand the process and intent:
1) Code Enforcement penalties – The current draft is still a nuisance-based penalty system. The current policy is to treat marijuana-based nuisance complaints the same way as any other nuisance complaint. The initial response to such a complaint is to notify the landowner/resident of the complaint via mail. If no response is received after the issuance of two letters, a Code Enforcement officer may be dispatched to the location of the complaint in order to speak with the resident at that location in an attempt to verify whether a code violation is taking place. If so, Code Enforcement is committed to working with the resident on solutions to bring that residence into compliance.
We have been assured that this ordinance will not be used as an excuse for Code Enforcement to show up on private property and kick doors in. Davina Smith, Deputy County Counsel, has informed us that if anyone has questions about Code Enforcement’s policy or procedures, she is happy to answer them. Her contact number is 707. 445.7236. This is an unprecedented level of openness on the part of this agency and show a willingness to change from past negative practices.
2) Conditional Use Permit – While this latest draft still requires that dispensing facilities apply for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), the Planning Department has delegated a second planner to help streamline the process. They estimate that with this additional help the CUP process will take approximately four (4) months, which should be a significant improvement over the twelve to eighteen (12-18) months that it is currently taking.
3) Permitted medicine – While both the HGA and HUMMAP feel that it is important that CCDFs be mandated to only obtain and dispense permitted medicine, we have been assured that this language will be adopted once the Phase 2 Cultivation Exemptions are approved.
4) Indoor/outdoor — While this ordinance seems to imply that residential personal-use cultivation must be in a structure as defined in the draft, this is because Phase I is only dealing with personal-use indoor-residential, which by definition will take place indoors in a dwelling (or detached structure in a residential area). Phase II will define personal-use-outdoor in residential areas and will likely maintain the current 100 ft/sq. personal-use limit. Neither Phase I nor Phase II will mandate indoor-only cultivation, as some have taken the present wording to mean. No permit will be required for personal-use cultivation by a qualified patient within the Phase I indoor or Phase II outdoor guidelines. For personal-use cultivation over these amounts, an exemption will be required. The details of this exemption process will be worked out in the language of Phase II.
5) Code compliance — The Phase I personal-use cultivation language seems, on a casual reading, to require that structures (residences and detached structures) be brought into compliance with building codes, something that will raise the hackles of many owner-builders in the County, especially in rural areas. We’ve been assured by County Counsel that this language is necessary boilerplate ordinance language to protect the County from liability. Since they are specifically saying that growing marijuana indoors (within the guidelines) is okay, they could be held liable if someone burns a building down. By putting in the requirement that growing operations be up to code (and it’s unclear if that means the entire building or just the part involved in the cultivation area), it frees the County from liability if someone causes a fire by using non-code-compliant wiring. The County feels that if the electrical is up to code, plugging in a 1200-Watt light will not pose any threat to health or safety of the occupants. Remember, this applies to apartment buildings in Garberville as well as to single-family residences in Briceland, so it is important that anything specifically permitted by the County in this ordinance has some protection from liability. Most people would not want to live in an apartment building knowing that other residents are hooking 1200 Watt lights into non-compliant wiring.
Since no permit is required for personal-use-indoor cultivation, it is unlikely that the County will ever know either way if a grow operation is up to code or not (though we encourage you to only use safe, code-compliant wiring and lighting for the sake of your safety and the industry’s image). We have also been assured that this is not a back-door attempt at forcing code-compliance.
6) Landlords’ rights vs. patients’ rights — the ordinance allows landlords to prohibit cultivation indoors in residential structures. While this will limit the ability of some renter-patients to grow their medicine, these patients have ample opportunities in Humboldt County to purchase medical marijuana from dispensaries (with many more opening in the next year) and to become involved with one of the abundant cultivation collectives/cooperatives.
There has been incredible and unprecedented cooperation between the grower community and Planning, County Counsel, the D.A., and the Sheriff in this ordinance process. It has been a long time coming, but we’re in a new era of cooperation in the marijuana industry in Humboldt County. We believe that both the grower community and the County officials have to take each other as having the best intentions in moving forward cooperatively to make this work for everyone. The past should be left behind in favor of positive attitudes and finding solutions.