Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – Humboldt County’s Board of Supervisors wants to advance policies to help small-scale cannabis farmers but isn’t ready to lobby the state for creating a new cottage micro-business license.
Supervisors considered a letter in support of the new license type at their Jan. 7 meeting.
Sponsored and authored by Supervisor Steve Madrone, the letter offers to implement the cottage business license as a pilot program in Humboldt County and states that it would “go a long way to creating a legitimate pathway and incentivize the small operators to finally make the effort to come into compliance.”
Madrone and Board Chair Estelle Fennell make up the board’s Cannabis Ad Hoc Committee and have been discussing the introduction of the new license type. While she didn’t support the letter’s wording due to being “very vague,” Fennell said the idea should be further developed.
“I think the direction we’re going in is a good one,” she said. “We are definitely working to address the concerns of small growers.”
The county’s cannabis ordinance includes exemptions from road requirements and other favorable permit conditions for small-scale growers. Fennell said that although “maybe that’s not enough for some,” the recently-launched Project Trellis cannabis industry assistance program also aims to help and “now we’re looking at yet another category that might make it easy for people to enter the regulated market.”
During a public comment session, Thomas Mulder of the Humboldt Redwood Healing farm said the letter concerned him because micro-business licensing could be used to promote indoor cultivation.
Ross Gordon, policy director for the Humboldt Growers Alliance, said incentivizing small-scale farming should be a “top priority” and the cottage micro-business category is worth discussing.
He also offered other suggestions, such as lobbying to ease restrictions on cooperatives. “It’s a paradoxical system where the smallest farmers are being asked to follow more restrictions than big, consolidated companies,” Gordon said.
While there was consensus support for assisting smaller-scale farmers, supervisors suggested shelving the letter until a more detailed and reviewed proposal is developed.
Madrone agreed with that. “This is exactly why this is on (the agenda), so we can have this discussion,” he said.
Responding to the comments from the audience and supervisors, he added, “Absolutely, there’s a lot of work to do to reach out to a lot of different people to make sure that we’re getting this right.”
There are several other ways to reduce compliance barriers and improve economic conditions, he continued, including creation of “new avenues of direct sales to small farmers,” such as sales at farmers markets.
Supervisors agreed to have the board’s Cannabis Ad Hoc Committee review the cottage micro-business license proposal and bring it back for discussion when it’s further developed.
The state does offer a micro-business license but it applies to farms of up to 10,000 square feet, while 3,000 square feet is the small-scale threshold in the county’s cannabis ordinance.][‘