It wouldn't exactly be accurate to say Humboldt County marijuana growers are rushing into compliance. But Humboldtians put their neighbors to shame, out-enrolling other Northern California counties in the state Water Board's marijuana compliance program.
As the Times-Standard reports, the deadline to enroll in the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board's Cannabis Cultivation Waste Discharge Regulatory Program (take a breath) was Feb. 15.
The program is designed to bring grow sites into compliance with water regulations, enforcing rules about grading, water storage and acceptable runoff, among other issues. Low-impact growers are expected to pay enrollment fees, while more environmentally damaging growers will have to prepare and pay for remediation.
More than half the program's enrollees — 28 out of the 51 — were from Humboldt County. Thirteen were from Mendocino, and only a handful from the other surrounding counties. Forty-three applications are still being processed, according to the T-S, but if the pattern holds, Humboldt growers have proven to be the most forward-looking.
Of course, there might be more to those numbers than meets the eye. Southern Humboldt was the first destination for the water board's high profile site visits, early in 2015. Inspectors met with property owners and evaluated their grow scenes for violations. The visits got a lot of media attention, and news about the board's program undoubtedly spread through Humboldt County. It's not immediately clear how much enforcement took place in other Northern California counties.
And 28 enrolled grow sites is not exactly a coup, considering the conservative estimate of grows within county borders is 4,000 to 5,000.
Still, it shows there are people who want to become compliant, who are taking the risks to come out of the shadows and expose their practices to state code enforcers. Growers can still enroll, but the state board is taking off the gloves and will now start enforcing its rules and issuing penalties to out-of-compliance grows.
Meanwhile, State Sen. Mike McGuire introduced a 15-percent medical marijuana sales tax bill, through which he expects to collect more than $100 million in revenue.
Piggybacking onto last year's regulations, which outlined 17 types of business licenses for medical marijuana businesses and removed a requirement that they be nonprofits, the tax is designed to fund the new regulations as well as police departments, state parks, environmental rehabilitation and drug and alcohol treatment programs, according to McGuire.
Thirty percent of the tax, if passed, will go to the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, which will distribute it to local regulatory agencies via grants (only 5 percent is allowed to be collected for the BoMM's administrative purposes). Another 30 percent will go to the state's general fund; 20 percent to state parks; 10 percent to the California Natural Resource Agencies to restore marijuana-impacted watersheds; and 10 percent to county drug and alcohol treatment programs.
Colorado made more than $70 million in tax revenue on the sale of recreational marijuana between July 2014 and June 2015. The California Board of Equalization estimates that medical marijuana sales in the state exceeded $1 billion last year. With that kind of untapped cash poised to flow into the state, expect to see lots of wrangling over how the tax revenue will be distributed.