In the midst of harvest season, the Humboldt County Growers Alliance has announced that the county now has the most licensed cannabis businesses of any California county.
In fact, an analysis by the alliance found that Humboldt County holds nearly 30 percent of the state's cultivation licenses and is home to a third of the state's cultivation businesses. Further, with 569, the county has more independent cultivation businesses than any other and has 442 acres of land licensed for cannabis production, which outpaces even Santa Barbara County and its behemoth mega farms.
"As we celebrate the 2019 harvest, Humboldt County's leadership in the regulated cannabis market is a testament to this community's resilience," said HCGA Executive Director Terra Carver in a press release. "The fact that Humboldt now leads the state in licensed cultivation validates the incredible effort that farmers, local cannabis businesses, policymakers and the community have put in over the past five years to bring us to this point."
Of course, this news came just as PG&E pulled the plug on almost a million customers throughout the state, including more than 60,000 in Humboldt County, which, of course, includes all those previously mentioned cannabis farms.
While some retail shops remained open throughout the blackout — we see you EcoCann dispensary with your "The lights won't be lit, but we will!" sign — disruption of the industry as a whole has been significant.
The biggest issue, according to Carver, is keeping freezers operational for stocks of "fresh frozen," or cannabis that is frozen while fresh to be manufactured into concentrates.
"Some folks have entire harvests in their freezers and some distributors have a bunch of different farms' work in their freezers," Carver said. "That's a lot of responsibility and liability. If a freezer fails and it thaws, the product is worthless."
Taylor Lefevre, co-owner of Bear Extraction in Arcata, said he feels that responsibility. He said the company brought in a large generator during the previous PG&E blackout on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9, and had an electrician wire it to the company's industrial freezer, so it was prepared this go around. He said Bear just stocked up on fuel reserves and halted production to prioritize keeping the freezer cold.
"We have a lot of farmers' material onsite," Lefevre said. "People's whole crops are in there."
So far, Lefevre said things are going great, though he added if the blackout stretches further into the week, the company will bring in another generator to power the production side of its business because it can't keep it down for too long.
"We're resourceful," he said. "We used to live out in the mountains."
Of course, there are other issues, too. Without power, the state's track and trace program isn't working because its portal is down. Carver said the state has been proactive, however, in issuing directions for workarounds.
The most pressing issue impacting the entire industry, however, is the fires burning to the south, which have entirely shut down operations in much of Sonoma and Mendocino counties. That has upstream effects in Humboldt County, according to Carver. Though this isn't at all unique to the cannabis industry.
"Our manufacturers and distributors in town are hurting just like all other businesses," she said. "Ironically enough, our off-the-grid farms are faring best. They are literally built for this."
Thadeus Greenson is the Journal's news editor. He prefers he/him pronouns and can be reached at 442-1400, extension 321, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.