A medical marijuana farmers market held several times since March 2016 and planned for this Sunday was canceled after the Humboldt County Planning Department sent a cease and desist letter.
Planning and Building Director John Ford said that the event, known as the Casual Crop Exchange, held at Trim Scene Solutions in Redway was violating the county’s cannabis dispensary ordinance because it involved cannabis sales.
“If you’re selling cannabis right now, you fall under the dispensary ordinance,” Ford said Friday afternoon. “The dispensary has to be within a building. It requires brick and mortar. It requires a permanent location. To do it without a permit is not legal.”
Ford said his department sent the cease and desist letter on June 13 after it received a complaint, though Ford said he did not have specific information on the complaint available at the time.
Joey Burger founder of both Trim Scene Solutions and the farmers market said he canceled this Sunday’s “710 Oil Spill” farmers market, which was themed on the July 10 marijuana holiday that celebrates cannabis oils and concentrates.
Burger said the cancelation has resulted in lost revenue as they had already advertised for the event and signed on sponsors and vendors. Burger said they have held eight farmers markets since March 2016.
Burger said the revenue they obtain from the market’s entrance fee is donated to local nonprofit organizations.
He said they raised $2,500 from their April 20 market, which he said was donated to the Redway-based Community Cornerstone Inc. that provides training for disabled adults in Humboldt and Mendocino counties.
Burger said the entrance fee revenue from Sunday’s event would have gone to the Southern Humboldt Community Park.
“A lot of community members are losing out with the disappearance of this event,” Burger said.
The event was also a space where new marijuana farmers could show off their product and “not have to live under that fear or stigma anymore,” Burger said.
“They could show they were proud farmers,” he said.
Burger said they were under the impression the market was not going to be an issue with the county and said they had reached out to the county through the Southern Humboldt Chamber of Commerce in 2016 to verify the event’s compliance with county rules.
Burger said he was told that all they had to do was set a 21-and-over age limit because of California’s recent smoking age changes.
“We did that and had a lot of successful events after,” Burger said.
Laura Lasseter was the chamber’s executive director at the time and said she reached out to county Senior Planner Steve Lazar about the event after being approached by the market’s coordinator. Lasseter said she was told by Lazar that the concept of a cannabis farmers’ market had not been pursued under the state’s or county’s medical marijuana regulations.
“There were definitely more layers discussed than just a 21-and-over area,” Lasseter said Friday.
Lazar confirmed he spoke with Lasseter and said this issue has come up before when the Reggae on the River music festival was pursuing on-site medical cannabis sales. While temporary alcohol licenses can be issued by the state, Lazar said there is currently no equivalent for marijuana.
“That’s a new concept that nobody has pursued at this point,” Lazar said. “I envision maybe the state will clarify this as part of the state rulemaking.”
Ford said cannabis competitions and farmers markets are something that the county needs to address as it works to expand the county’s marijuana regulations.
Burger said he will be applying for a dispensary permit at the next opportunity with the hope the county will allow for on-site consumption and farmers’ markets in their rules. He said he thinks there is a definite need to regulate cannabis farmers markets compared to other types of farmers’ markets.
“But let’s not overburden ourselves,” Burger said.
In the meantime, Burger said they will be continuing to host cannabis-themed educational speakers, which he said was his favorite part of the farmers’ market. The free “Casual Sunday” educational speaker event will be held every second and fourth Sunday at Trim Scene Solutions at 1911 Barnett Court No. 6 in Redway, Burger said. The second event of the planned series will be held on Sunday.
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