Growers face ‘death by 1,000 cuts’

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – The state’s draft regulations for medical marijuana are up for public comment and were described as being a daunting challenge for smaller-scale growers at a local hearing.

Concerns about the costs and effects of the new regulatory maze on Humboldt’s artisan-scale marijuana producers emerged at a June 1 hearing attended by about 80 people at Eureka’s Adorni Center.

Staff members from the state’s Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation were there to listen to comments on the draft regulations, which were released in late April for a 45-day public comment period.

Bill Boerum, chair of the Northern California Health Care Authority, said that during a webinar held by his agency, the effects of excessive fees and bureaucracy were described as being counter-productive.

“Over-regulation and high prices could keep the black market alive and at the same time force out small and legacy growers, producers and providers,” he continued. “Personally, my hope is that the regulations will bring this industry out in the open and be supportive of its pioneers.”

Comments geared to effects on small-scale growers were numerous even though the hearing was for regulations directed at distributors, transporters, dispensaries and testing.

One speaker told the bureau’s staffers that Humboldt’s medical marijuana industry is largely made up of working-class scale producers who will be at a disadvantage when it comes to compliance with costly regulations.

“There’s a risk of focusing too much on investment and new jobs created and not enough on the local cost – the local cost to Humboldt’s economy could be really huge,” he said, adding that “the majority of operators are just working class people who are just trying to supplement their incomes so they can take care of their kids – that was a lot of my neighbors growing up here.”

Environmental law attorney Paul Hagen said some application requirements are “onerous” and license fees will exact “death by a thousand cuts” on small-scale growers.

Sean Trainor of the Sensi Valley Farms administrative assistance rm said the regulations require many “oner- ous tasks for small growers and grower groups” that seem more appropriate for large-scale operations in urban areas. “We’re being crushed by an avalanche of miniscule regulatory body work,” he added.

Another speaker said entry into the regulatory process is too expensive and there’s limited ability to achieve the upfront investment due to lack of bank financing for it.

A staff member of the AgDynamix compliance assistance rm commented on the scale of security requirements, saying that only the owners of “big mega-grows” would be able to afford to comply with them.

She added that extenuating circumstances need to be considered in a requirement that businesses must be pre-existing in order to continue operating while license applications are pending.

Some pre-existing operators are ling new applications because they seek to expand and suspending business activity while their licenses are pending could lead to insolvency, she said. The hearing covered medical marijuana regulations but a recreational licensing structure will be developed in the near future. But at the start of the hearing, Bureau Chief Lori Ajax said the separate statutory structures will soon be blended, as “we’re aligning it together so we’re regulating it as one model.”



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