The Humboldt County Planning Commission has been in the throes of a series of meetings over the last few weeks to address a proposed outdoor medical marijuana cultivation ordinance.
In the course of five meetings in the last two weeks, commissioners have heard hours of public comment and talked in depth with county counsel and planning staff in the commission's mission to come up with recommendations for the ordinance. County supervisors have asked for recommendations by the commission's Dec. 3 meeting with the hope that supervisors can approve rules by March 1, the deadline to have local ordinances on the books or cede the permitting process to the state.
Public comment has largely swayed between marijuana growers, who say the ordinance draft is too restrictive for larger grows and will prevent people from coming into compliance, and environmentalists, who say the restrictions are appropriate and have suggested a limit on the total number of marijuana cultivation permits issued by the county.
At an earlier meeting, senior planner Steve Lazar identified a number of "policy concepts" — essentially pointing out ideas and areas of concern raised by commissioners and the public. Among those are:
Offering a provisional license that would give existing farms time to come into compliance with county codes while continuing to operate.
Tribal consultation on permitting sites and compliance.
Revisiting the county's Phase 2 ordinance, which allows small grows on parcels under five acres.
Recognizing nurseries, where plants aren't grown to maturity, as separate uses.
Identifying a "Humboldt heritage" type of permit, which would give an edge to farmers who live at their cultivation sites and follow best environmental practices.
Some kind of incentive to have farmers move their cultivation sites out of the hills to more suitable parcels for agriculture.
Caps on the total number of permits issued.
Discouraging indoor growing on ag-zoned parcels.
The discussions continue, with two more scheduled meetings, Wednesday Nov. 18 at 1 p.m. and Thursday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. Lazar says more meetings are likely to be scheduled as December approaches.
Sentiments toward marijuana may be shifting south of the border — a modest decision by the Mexican Supreme Court may pave the way for legalization of cannabis in the nation in the next few years.
Mexico, with the U.S., has waged an escalating War on Drugs in the last decade and that has set the stage for large criminal enterprises to manufacture, ship and sell marijuana and other drugs. As the border country to the U.S. — with its discretionary income and seemingly insatiable appetite for recreational drugs — Mexico's War on Drugs has helped create violent battlegrounds over turf and shipping routes.
In early November, the court's criminal chamber "declared that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use," according to the New York Times. This doesn't overturn any existing laws, but some say the move represents acknowledgement that the War on Drugs is failing and that marijuana legalization could be ahead.
While this is likely a good move, it's been reported that cartels have diversified away from importing marijuana into the U.S. as domestic laws are loosening. That means if the U.S. and Mexico want any real relief from the War on Drugs, both nations need to examine how they police all drugs.