Cannabis workshops begin this week

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – The county is taking a significant step toward updating its commercial marijuana regulations by opening the floor to public comment on a new draft ordinance.

The county’s Planning Commission will hold a public workshop on the draft at its Thursday, Sept. 7 meeting. A second workshop is set for the commission’s Thursday, Sept. 24 meeting. Both meetings begin at 5 p.m. at 825 Fifth St. in Eureka

A contract with a consulting firm on developing a new ordinance and an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was approved by the Board of Supervisors last April. The commission will eventually forward recommendations to supervisors.

The existing ordinance was done under a tight timeframe and Proposition 64, the state’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act, was approved by voters afterwards.

Proposition 64 expands the range of commercial marijuana licenses, including license types that allow for mixing cultivation with retail sales and onsite manufacturing.

Those licenses would allow businesses that are comparable to vineyards, where wine is produced, grapes are grown and wine is consumed onsite in tasting rooms.

The new ordinance will also include a repeal of the Dec. 31, 2016 deadline for submitting commercial production permit applications. The scope of the ordinance will also be expanded.

The current ordinance directs commercial cultivation into agriculturally-zoned areas but limits that to areas with prime agricultural soil. The new ordinance draft includes non-prime soil sites to open up possibilities for relocating existing grows into areas that have power, water and road access.  With the prime soil requirement, the county wanted to limit the number of properties available for production. But planning staff has told supervisors that using prime soils as a basis has the unintended consequence of increasing prices for agricultural land and offsetting the goals of land trusts.

There are also impacts to residential areas adjacent to prime soil areas. The revamped ordinance includes new requirements for sites that are within the spheres of influence of cities.

The draft requires a special permit process, which includes public hearings if neighbors request them, for any commercial marijuana activities within a city’s sphere of influence, within 1,000 feet of a city border and within 1,000 feet of tribal areas.  Other items that will be considered as the county moves ahead include additional restrictions on generator use and odor, and streamlining permit processes for water storage. Final public hearings on the ordinance and its EIR are expected late this year.


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