HTHG Helps Shape Groundbreaking Humboldt County Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance

On January 26, 2016, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors adopted the first comprehensive local commercial medical marijuana land use ordinance under the State Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (“MMRSA”). The County’s “Commercial Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance” (Ordinance No. 2544) regulates commercial cultivation, processing, manufacturing, and distribution of medical marijuana in coastal and inland zones. The ordinance becomes effective March 1.

Environmental protection measures form a major component of the new ordinance. The County especially intended to reduce impacts to streams, fish and wildlife historically caused by cultivation operations in forested, hilly drainages. To incentivize growers to relocate cultivation operations out of environmentally-sensitive areas and onto agricultural property, the County established an innovative program that allows larger grow sizes for relocated operations. In order to take advantage of the additional grow area in the new location, participating cultivators must agree to remediate the abandoned cultivation site in accordance with County guidelines.

The County’s ordinance moves commercial medical marijuana cultivation, processing, and manufacturing out of the quasi-legal context existing under prior medical marijuana laws and into the well-established legal and procedural framework of traditional land use permitting. Medical marijuana operations will be required to obtain one of three levels of land use permit, ranging from a ministerial zoning clearance certificate to a discretionary conditional use permit, which may require Planning Commission or Board approval and review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Applicants for all permit types under the ordinance will be required to submit applications to the County including detailed site plans, operations plans, proof of compliance with applicable North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board water discharge orders, and water supply plans, among other requirements.

This firm worked closely with clients and the County through the administrative process on several aspects of the County ordinance. This firm provided analysis and guidance regarding consistency with State requirements under MMRSA, consistency with CEQA, and appropriate zoning and land use designations for various license types. This firm also helped develop a program within the ordinance to create permitting parity between owners of large agricultural properties and owners of smaller properties, as well as to facilitate relocation of cultivation operations from environmentally-sensitive areas onto suitable agricultural property.

Humboldt County’s ordinance is available for download here.

Harrison, Temblador, Hungerford & Guernsey counsels clients on compliance with MMRSA, local implementing medical marijuana land use ordinances, CEQA review, and compliance with Regional Water Board and Department of Fish and Wildlife requirements.

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