Click here for Humboldt County’s Cannabis Mitigation and Remediation Grant Program

What Effective Cannabis Regulation Might Look Like

A sustainable set of policy solutions to the environmental, social, and legal challenges presented by the Green Rush needs to:

Reflect Community Concerns

The spectacular failures of marijuana prohibition are to a large degree unanticipated problems generated by yesterday’s apparently simple solutions to complex problems. Better solutions address all critical concerns and stakeholders.

Optimal solutions are most likely to emerge from an open process that seeks out expert and lay perspectives on problems and solutions and looks ahead to future changes.

Reduce Cumulative Impacts

Rising environmental impacts associated with the Green Rush threaten our iconic North Coast rivers, fish and wildlife.

Summer water diversions must be halted, and sources of excess sediment corrected, to give threatened coho salmon and steelhead their best shot at recovery.

Environmental review at the program level to ensure impacts are limited.

Effective regulation should:

  • halt Green Rush increases in the number and scale of cultivation operations
  • reduce watershed impacts of cultivation in general, not just willing permittees

Work Toward Comprehensive Solutions

While Cannabis remains federally prohibited, even state legalization can only go part of the way to correcting the unintended consequences of prohibition. Nonetheless, county-level regulation should go as far as possible down that road, not least to show state and federal policy-makers where we would like to go.

  • regulate all but de minimis individual cultivation
  • appropriate limits on personal, medical, and commercial production
  • include both willing and unwilling cultivators on the private landscape
  • consistent to the extent possible with Department of Justice guidelines for state legalization and regulation

Be Practicable and Effective

It is essential that the marijuana industry itself take effective responsibility for reducing its watershed impacts to the greatest extent possible. Due to the peculiar circumstances of the industry’s long evolution under prohibition, enforcement efforts targeting specific environmental harms associated with marijuana cultivation have been limited in scope and effectiveness.

At the same time, enforcement will remain an indispensable element of any comprehensive approach to managing the marijuana industry and its environmental impacts. Better-targeted and better-funded enforcement, coupled with incentives structured to support community-based watershed protection efforts, can drive better outcomes on the ground and in our streams.

  • Adequate funding and clear direction for enforcement and inspection measures prior to implementation;
  • growth of permitting program should reflect agency capacity and need for adaptive management;
  • nuisance abatement to address operations in violation of ordinance;
  • incentives by watersheds as neighborhoods correct sediment sources and protect summer streamflows;
  • disincentives: uncorrected willful violations of permit terms disqualify permittee and parcel;

Implement Sustainable Practices

  • deter unsustainable practices to the greatest practicable extent: no indoor cultivation, pesticides, water hauling.
  • individual parcels: suitability screens, site fixes, BMPs in operation
  • watershed and community level: net compliance with water protection measures, including winter diversion rates, no summer diversions, effective sediment abatement
  • where effective practices have been demonstrated at the subwatershed level, increases in net and individual parcel cultivation may be considered
  • fund and support prevention and remediation of trespass operations, watershed restoration, pollution prevention

Reflect Limits

  • limit total number of permits
  • limits on scale by parcel size, location, parcel suitability, other concerns
  • permits only to natural persons
  • permits limited to one per person and one per parcel
  • no incentive for parcel division: if a parcel is split, the net limit on the two remaining parcels may not be greater than the original parcel for a period of ten years.