A marijuana grow operation (pictured) was searched on June 23, 2015 as part of a multi-agency sweep serving marijuana search warrants in Humboldt County’s corner of the remote Island Mountain area. (Lt. Wayne Hanson, provided by Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office)

In attempt to help small farmers, Humboldt reps call for one-acre cap on cannabis cultivation

The North Coast’s two state representatives are calling on the state to cap commercial cannabis farms to one acre per person, saying it will protect small farmers from being outcompeted by larger companies.

However, some in the industry are saying reinstating the cap so close to the planned New Year’s Day rollout of the state’s marijuana market would be inappropriate timing, with some farms having already been permitted at the local level to grow more than one acre.

Second District Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) and Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) sent a letter to the Office of Administrative Law earlier this week that called for the cap to be included in the state’s cannabis regulations, which are currently being finalized.

Wood said not having the cap goes against previous efforts by the Legislature to limit cultivation in the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, which limited cultivation to one acre with an exception for a dispensary license that allowed up to four acres of cultivation

“It undermines the work that we were doing to protect the smaller growers at least at the outset,” Wood said outside of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors chambers in Eureka on Tuesday. “We know that five years from now all bets are off, but we’ve got to give the people who are the real pioneers in this industry an opportunity to be successful and a way to bring them out of the shadows and into the regulated market.”

After the passage of recreational marijuana laws through Proposition 64 in November 2016 and the Legislature combining the medical and recreational rules through Senate Bill 94 earlier this year, the one-acre cultivation limit was left out.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture then released its emergency cannabis cultivation rules last month, which also did not include the one-acre cap. However, an environmental review of the rules released a few days earlier had included the cap.

The Department of Food and Agriculture told the Times-Standard at the time that it “left out” the cap from the final rules “after careful consideration, including input from stakeholders.”

California Growers Association Executive Director Hezekiah Allen said he met with staff from Gov. Jerry Brown’s office on Tuesday who he said told him that there never was going to be a cumulative cap on cultivation. Allen said he walked away from the meeting with the impression that the governor’s office was disowning the Department of Food and Agriculture’s November statement to the Times-Standard.

“I’m a bit confused frankly. It just seems inconsistent,” Allen said.

California Department of Food and Agriculture spokesman Steve Lyle wrote in a statement to the Times-Standard on Wednesday that a one-acre limit “has not been in proposed regulations at any point and was not included in the emergency regulations due to the fact that Proposition 64, the law guiding the process, did not provide authority to include it.”

“However, local jurisdictions may impose that limitation on their own if it meets the needs of their constituents,” he continued.

The governor’s office deferred all inquiries on the matter to the Department of Food and Agriculture.

The California Cannabis Industry Association — which represents about 400 cannabis-related businesses throughout the state — has stated creating a cap so close to the Jan. 1 statewide marijuana market opener is the wrong approach. The association’s communications and outreach Director Josh Drayton said because the cap was not in the combined medical and recreational cannabis laws, the one-acre cap has been made into an issue “without any foundation.”

That being said, Drayton said the association does not have an official position on the cultivation cap.

“Making a cap currently is a major policy change,” he said. “It’s not just a tweak that can be made and implemented immediately. That is something that is a major policy change that changes statute that needs to be dealt with in the regular rule-making process.”

According to the Humboldt County Planning and Building Department, only a handful of people in the county have applied for cultivation permits to grow more than one acre.

This story was first published on TheCannfornian.com