Protecting the Humboldt bud brand

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – Following a successful pilot program last year, Humboldt County is pursuing a comprehensive marijuana track and trace program modeled after one being developed in Mendocino County.

The importance of tracking Humboldt County’s marijuana – and protecting its local brand – was highlighted when the Board of Supervisors gave staff direction at its July 25 meeting. Supervisors directed staff to develop a local program that will confirm Humboldt origin and provide complete tracking.

A leading candidate for a track and trace contract is SICPA Security, the company that managed Humboldt’s pilot program. SICPA is also contracting with Mendocino County for its track and trace program and

County Agricultural Commissioner Jeff Dolf said that “piggyback language” is included in that contract to mirror it to a Humboldt effort.

Dolf said the county has several options for developing track and trace. It could do nothing and wait for the state to introduce its program, which is due in six months.

The county could also develop a program geared only to ensuring that local marijuana products are branded accordingly. Dolf said a third option, which he described as “track and trace lite,” would ensure correct branding and include a basic level of tracking.

The fourth option, he continued, is a “robust” track and trace program such as Mendocino’s.

“We could simply adopt that platform and program, which is a full track and trace program that’s compliant with the state’s requirements,” Dolf said. “Mendocino’s platform offers the things that the industry has been very outspoken to us about – the branding of the Humboldt County name and it would also meet the needs of law enforcement.”

Interim County Sheriff Billy Honsal encouraged supervisors to advance a full local program, saying that he doubts if the state will introduce its program in time.

Supervisor Estelle Fennell agreed with that approach. She emphasized the importance of tracking and tracing to confirm that marijuana products are being made and distributed legally.

During a public comment session, several of those involved in the industry supported the development of a local program. Andy Powell of the Arcata-based Emerald Family Farms said it’s crucial to define the legality of products through tracking and tracing.

“It’s now bringing us, the legitimate community, working – and this might sound odd – with law enforcement, together,” he continued.

That’s important, he added, because tracking and tracing “does not allow black market product to be injected into the white market, which is a commercial disadvantage to us – it’s unfair competition.”

Terra Carver, the executive director of the Humboldt Growers Alliance, said cultivators are highly supportive of confirming Humboldt origin through a track and trace system.

Participants in the county’s pilot track and trace program “reported increased brand awareness and sales,” she continued, adding that “for the first time in history, California consumers could verify that the cannabis they were purchasing was actually from Humboldt.”

A motion from Supervisor Estelle Fennell directed staff to develop a full Mendocino County-type track and trace program proposal. Fennell’s motion stipulated that the proposal be for a one-year timeframe, allowing the county to gauge the state’s progress.

Dolf’s recommendation to have the county amend its commercial marijuana production ordinance to require tracking and tracing was worked into the motion, which was unanimously approved.

Dolf said that Mendocino’s program recovers costs through a monthly $90 fee to participants plus a two-cent charge for each track and trace product stamp issued. Humboldt County has also approved annual inspection fees through Dolf’s office.


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