Cannabis cultivators in the Emerald Triangle have a whole host of concerns about the state’s draft medical marijuana regulations, including the restrictions on using mixed light and the measurement of canopy. They and others involved in Northern California’s vintage marijuana industry met with state authorities in Ukiah on Thursday, one in a series of hearings across California in the coming weeks.
“We have spent the last year trying to make regulations work for farmers,” said Amber Morris, branch chief of CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing (under the Department of Food and Agriculture), at the meeting’s start.
However, there is still much work to do, according to the cultivators, business owners and attorneys who arrived in the Ukiah Valley Conference Center on Thursday.
“If the regulations were implemented as they stand, it would be a disaster,” said Swami Chaitanya, president of the Mendocino Cannabis Industry Association.
Repeat comments in the hearing pointed out a lack of clarity in the state’s definitions of canopy (cultivation area), mixed-light cultivation and ownership (different for publicly traded and privately held companies).
The draft regulations define mixed-light cultivation as that which uses light deprivation and/or artificial lighting below a rate of 25 watts per square foot. An application for that permit type would have to include a lighting diagram detailing the location of all lights in the canopy area and the maximum wattage of each light. An additional environmental measure would require lights used for cultivation be shielded from sunset to sunrise, to avoid glare at night.
Speakers criticized other requirements for being too lofty, like outfitting cultivation sites with the proper security measures and the July 1 deadline to file on the state’s water board guidelines. The state’s undeveloped track-and-trace system raised many questions, cultivators uncertain how exactly they will interact with it.
Some are not entirely sure what is being asked of them, as Michael Green of the Lake County Growers Association said. He has heard of a lot of confusion among his peers, even total blindness to the regulation process.
“There are a lot of farmers who don’t know this is happening still,” he said.
Several speakers argued the need for tailored regulations to different regions, Mendocino County thought to be at a commercial disadvantage because of geography. Paul Hansbury of Laytonville said requirements should fit the heritage of that particular industry.
“Things are very different in Mendocino County than they are in Fresno,” he said. “If you don’t (respect that heritage), it’s just another law that people are going to break….”
Mendocino County Supervisor John McCowen echoed Hansbury’s call for acknowledging the established industry and practicing flexibility, which the county tried for in its own regulations.
“Don’t preclude the participation of literally thousands who have been practicing this trade…for generations,” he said.
The state will need to rely on current growers as much as possible to make this work, he said; “Anything else further fuels the black market.”
Specific to the surrounding rural area, the prohibiting of generators (except in case of a power outage) was deemed unfair by cultivators, who pointed out many people live off the grid.
Missing from the recurring objections were the fees, which Casey O’Neill, vice chairman of the California Growers Association, called a “pleasant surprise.” Although, that could have been due to the absence of those small-scale growers that would have complaints about the fees, as Green, with the Lake County Growers Association said. State fees and taxes were chief among the concerns of some of the same attendees at a cannabis conference in Willits in April, before the state draft regulations were released.
O’Neill did say he is wary of regulatory overreach, however, as well as “bureaucratic backlog,” as he has heard of state agencies being overwhelmed and unresponsive.
The three licensing authorities represented at the hearing, the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing, and the Office of Manufactured Cannabis Safety, only served to hear comments, not to respond or answer questions in person. Morris, with CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing, said it is likely the state will make changes to the draft regulations based on what comes out of the hearings. Any modifications would have to be finalized by Jan. 1, when medical and recreational cannabis regulations take effect.
There is one more hearing on cultivation in Central California, on June 14 in Sacramento.