Cannabis is already the most highly regulated crop in California for environmental impact, but Measure A's poorly-written rules would undermine these protections by making the legal and regulated market non-viable in Humboldt County.

Cannabis is Already the Mostly Highly Regulated Crop for Environmental Impact in California

“Although [environmental impacts] are associated with most agricultural activities and are not unique to cannabis, California’s regulations hold cannabis to a higher standard. State regulations for licensed cannabis cultivators include stringent water use and reporting requirements, exclusive use of organic amendments, numerous on-site inspections, ‘seed to sale’ tracking, and unique quality testing requirements. Cannabis growers must also comply with requirements established by local county and municipal jurisdictions.”
2023 UC Berkeley study

“Consumers who buy legal cannabis sourced from a permitted outdoor farm can feel confident that it has met stringent environmental requirements.”
Dr. Van Butsic, UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Permitted cannabis farmers in Humboldt follow the most stringent environmental requirements in California, including many requirements which are not applicable to any other form of agriculture.
For example:

Measure A is Designed to Shut Down Cannabis, Not Protect The Environment

“[Measure A] actually fails to cite a single source of any peer-reviewed cannabis-environment literature, or any agroecosystem research of any kind. As a self-proclaimed environmental initiative, this is concerning, and leads us as scientists to believe this is a neighborhood initiative, disguised as an environmental initiative… It is well-known in the conservation realm that regulatory hoop-jumping and compliance of agriculture that provides no measurable impacts to wildlife can be catastrophic for conservation. It can severely reduce morale and farmer support of conservation, degrade private land conservation partnerships and private land access, and result in poor public opinion and even increased poaching, poisoning, and killing of wildlife.”
Cannabis for Conservation Environmental Analysis of Measure A

Rather than protecting the environment, the real consequences of Measure A are to prevent Humboldt farmers from making any modifications to their permit—not just for more cultivation area, but for almost any normal agricultural activity.

Specifically, Measure A restricts “expansion,” but defines expansion so broadly to include almost any activity on a working farm, including an increase in “the number or size of any structures used in connection with cultivation.”

This is why the Planning Department’s analysis of Measure A found that “[Measure A] has been presented to preclude new large scale grows, but it will actually prevent existing permit holders, regardless of size, from being able to modify their permits to adapt to the evolving cannabis market and make strides towards greater environmental sustainability.”

Environmentalists oppose Measure A because:

  • Measure A’s comprehensive new restrictions only apply to permitted and legal farms, not unregulated farms which are responsible for the vast majority of environmental damage.
  • Measure A would undermine the viability of legal farms which are complying with existing, stringent state and local environmental regulations.
  • Since legalization, the number of cannabis cultivation sites in Humboldt has already dropped from an estimated 15,000 unregulated sites pre-2016, to just over 1,000 permitted farms in 2024.
  • Measure A’s restrictions on expansion include restrictions on an increase in “the number or size of any structures used in connection with cultivation,” with no exception for structures used for environmental purposes, such as water storage or solar.
  • Measure A’s strict cap on the total number of permits, regardless of size or production method, prevents new farms from being regulated under the legal system, leaving unregulated operation as the only option.
  • By freezing Humboldt’s cannabis regulations in place without another voter initiative, Measure A would prevent additional changes to Humboldt’s cannabis rules in response to environmental needs.

What the Environmental Community and Regulators are Saying About Measure A

“The HCRI [Measure A] has been presented to preclude new large scale grows, but it will actually prevent existing permit holders, regardless of size, from being able to modify their permits to adapt to the evolving cannabis market and make strides towards greater environmental sustainability.”
Humboldt County Planning Department Analysis of Measure A

“I will be voting NO on Measure A. This may surprise some people who know that I voted against the current cannabis ordinance because I believed it lacked sufficient environmental protections for water quality, noise, lighting and other impacts of cannabis farms, and that I remain committed to providing those protections.

Unfortunately, Measure A will not accomplish these goals. It does nothing to limit or stop illegal farms, which is where most of our problems occur. Instead, the initiative will put more restrictions on a majority of currently legal small farms making desired environmental improvements less likely.

Measure A did not go through the normal public process and feedback loops needed to develop good legislation: there was no review by or consultation with resources agencies, environmental organizations, civic groups or local tribes.

Further, at 31 pages, Measure A will modify our General Plan and ordinances in ways that will be difficult, time-consuming and costly to amend. And because the language seems prone to varying interpretations, this could lead to neighbor-against-neighbor conflicts and other legal challenges the county will have to spend your money to defend."

Mike Wilson, Third District Supervisor

“Unfortunately, the proponents of Measure A did not engage in a collaborative process with environmental organizations or community stakeholders. Measure A targets the only farming in Humboldt County — legal cannabis — that requires water storage and forbearance, while doing nothing to address the major impacts of dry season diversions for other kinds of farming, industry, and residential use. If it passes, it will move the regulatory goalposts yet again for the cannabis industry, which is already the most highly regulated agricultural industry in the state and because of the rigorous streamflow protections already in place, it will not result in improved streamflow. If passed it will have significant negative impacts on cannabis farms of all sizes, big and small. Many of our small cannabis farms are leaders in regenerative farming and actively engaged in land stewardship. Although Measure A claims to help small farms, the proposed increased regulations impact farms of all sizes with no provisions to support small farms. If passed it will harm the environment — by forcing many small farms out of business and encouraging illegal cannabis cultivation with no environmental protections. ”
Tasha McKee McCorkle, self, 20-year Sanctuary Forest Water Program Director

“Levy spoke to his experiences as a member of the Planning Commission, saying that the allegation from Measure A proponents that there has been a lack of coordination between the county and state resource agencies is ‘simply not true.’ ‘We had an extraordinary degree of interaction and consultation with all of the state agencies that were relevant in drafting these ordinances and revising the ordinance a couple of years later,’ Levy said. He also noted that every permit that comes through the Planning and Building Department requires permits from state agencies, such as the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the State Water Resources Control Board, the Regional Water Quality Board and CalFire. ‘Basically without exception, every request made by any of those agencies gets written into the permit as a condition of approval,’ Levy said.

Regarding water usage, Levy said cannabis is subjected to ‘the most stringent water protection of any agricultural crop in the state,’ and in Humboldt County, the Planning Commission went above and beyond those rules ‘to require hydrogeological analysis of anyone relying on a well to confirm that they’re not going to be depleting the aquifers that may serve other wells for nearby surface waters, and incentivizing or requiring extra storage and the transition to rainwater catchment.’ ”
North Coast Journal quoting Humboldt County Planning Commissioner Noah Levy

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