Sun Valley CEO Lane DeVries states the reason for developing his land for cannabis production is because his cut-flower business is struggling due to the impacts of globalization and the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Strange, because his company, Arcata Land Co., applied for Conditional Use Permit #12255 for 784,080 square feet of cannabis cultivation on Dec. 22, 2016, a mere six weeks after the voters of the state of California passed Proposition 64, the Adult Use Marijuana Act (AUMA). One of the provisions within Proposition 64 stated no outdoor or mixed-light operations larger than 1-acre would be licensed before Jan. 1, 2023. Before AUMA, in 2015, the state Legislature passed the Medical Marijuana Safety and Regulation Act, which held cultivation licensing at 4 acres or less. Humboldt County's own land use ordinance, which was signed into law by the supervisors in January of 2016, limited cultivation to "no more than four commercial cannabis activity permits [acres] of any type."
So, why did Mr. DeVries think that it was appropriate to apply for a Conditional Use Permit for 18-acres of cannabis cultivation in December 2016, which would require over 70 state cultivation permits? Even by 2021 standards (and after political wrangling eliminated the state's 1-acre cap in late 2017), what Sun Valley is applying for would be one of the most significant cultivation operations in the state — on par with the other cut-flower turned cannabis juggernaut, Santa Barbara.
In the last four-plus years, Mr. DeVries didn't think it prudent to communicate his plans to redevelop the Arcata Bottoms' agricultural lands with the public. I call that arrogance. Don't buy his sob story that he needs 23 acres of cannabis to save jobs. This project is grossly oversized and inappropriate for Humboldt County.
Natalynne DeLapp, Eureka
What kind of cannabis industry do we want to see in Humboldt County? The proposed 23-acre Sun Valley cultivation project is a litmus test for whether Humboldt will choose to support a small-scale, craft, independent industry, or roll out the welcome mat for corporate, industrial cannabis agriculture.
In the lead-up to the Proposition 64 vote in 2016, proponents assured Humboldt voters that cultivation would be capped at 1 acre until 2023. It didn't happen. At the last minute, the cap was pulled from state regulations, and today farms as large as 86 acres have been approved elsewhere in California.
When the acreage cap vanished, so did the most immediately accessible tool for building a statewide cannabis industry based on small-scale cultivation. Instead, it became clear that if Humboldt was going to resist the coming corporatization of the industry, we would need to redouble our efforts to preserve a local industry grounded in independent, craft and sustainable values.
It's not too late to do that — but we have to decide that we want it. Today, over half of Humboldt's 900-plus licensed farms are under a quarter-acre in size. Humboldt producers share a culture, knowledge and craft that can't be duplicated by even the deepest-pocketed corporations. And we have a local government that has supported small farms with programs like Project Trellis, which reinvests a portion of cannabis tax revenue into cooperative projects that support small producers.
As proposed, the Sun Valley project is not compatible with this vision. Twenty-three acres is dramatically too big, immensely out of proportion with anything discussed in Humboldt's two cannabis land use ordinances, and the knife in the back of a craft Humboldt cannabis brand. This won't be the last time that corporate cannabis comes for Humboldt County. The Planning Commission should say no.
Ross Gordon, Arcata