Arcata's Medical Marijuana Innovation Area Gets a Go-ahead


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  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • SRO.
The Arcata City Council played to a packed house last night as the public weighed in on a proposal for a Medical Marijuana Innovation Area.

The council ultimately voted unanimously in favor of the proposal, but not before an antsy, standing-room-only crowd stood by while the council burned through two hours wading through the night’s consent agenda. When a speaker made a plea for donations to support a two-week summer camp sponsored by a young woman’s foundation, several people approached her and handed her hundred dollar bills. She had come to the right meeting.

With legalization pending — and with it the specter of the city losing businesses to neighboring communities, Oetker said, “our role is quickly diminishing. … We’re on the brink of having significant issues in our community and having a great number of people and business who will lose or have their incomes diminished.”

Oetker was recommending that the city set aside three parcels on West End Road — the former Humboldt Flakeboard mill, owned by Bob Figas, and a city-owned property across the street. (Read more about the proposal here, and view the agenda item in its entirety here.)

The remnants of the old Humboldt Flakeboard mill on West End Road. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • The remnants of the old Humboldt Flakeboard mill on West End Road.
While he declined to say who, Oetker said “there is an immediate desire to get in there and start growing medical marijuana on site,” a point made clear by the dozens of people in attendance for the agenda item.

Oetker also called for a moratorium on dispensaries (the city has a four-dispensary capacity, and two are currently operating) outside of the innovation area — though it would allow the two current dispensaries to continue operating.

Ultimately, Oetker said, the council needs to answer some basic questions about the future landscape of marijuana in Arcata:

Do we want to allow businesses to sell recreational marijuana at any retail establishment or do we want to restrict them to the existing medical marijuana dispensaries or require a conditional use permit and only allow sales in certain places?

Do we want to allow on site consumption similar to a bar where people drink alcohol?

Will we treat growing marijuana as an agricultural crop and allow it to be grown as any other product or will we place restrictions on where it can be grown?

Will the legalization of a new industry cause lease rates to increase as the new entrepreneurs flood into the rental market?

What impact will increased competition for commercial and industrial lease space have on our existing small businesses? Will they be able to pay higher rental rates?

Will we be a tourist destination where people come to “experience” the marijuana culture?

Do we want to attract this type of tourist?

Councilwoman Susan Ornelas said she was concerned about the moratorium — comparing it to limiting Silicon Valley’s tech business in the ‘70s — and saying the “cultural bias” toward marijuana was driving council members to try to keep marijuana under wraps.

But Sofia Pereira, the council’s newest member, said that she saw the moratorium as similar to the city’s limit on chain restaurants — a way to promote local businesses and keep marijuana conglomerates from popping up all over town should legalization strike.

Several members of the public spoke, and while several minor concerns were raised, the overall reaction was positive.

Thomas Edrington of California Cannabis Voice Humboldt said the project would would go a long way toward cannabis worker safety.

A speaker read a letter from the CCVH Women’s Alliance praising the project for focusing on community kitchens — a void in the current medical marijuana industry.

The council’s approval starts a public hearing process at the planning commission level, where there will be further discussions about how to move forward with the proposed cultivation, warehousing and processing facility that will likely include a community kitchen for marijuana infused foods.

At the end of the night, the council voted to give the remainder of a loan originally issued to the now-defunct Flakeboard mill to Bob Figas. The loan will allow the Figas to work with potential cannabis tenants and the city to develop the innovation area.

[Editor's note - Thomas Edrington is no longer involved with California Cannabis Voice Humboldt.]


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