In order to allow more local cannabis farmers access to the statewide market, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to continue its temporary permitting program for qualified growers.

Cannabis industry stakeholders voiced support for prolonging the interim permit program on Tuesday, saying it allows cultivators to enter the statewide market while allowing them to work to bring their farm into compliance.

Rain & Zepp attorney Beorn Zepp of Eureka said he represents several cannabis businesses. While he supported prolonging the program, Zepp said that it is only a temporary fix and that growers will need annual permits to obtain their permanent state business license.

“If we don’t have some significant movement on the final actual permits, we are going to arrive at yet another train wreck that holds up the entire industry and the permitting process,” Zepp said. “… At the rate we’re going, the present round of permits are going to be being processed for years and we’re not going to be able to get this industry off the ground locally at this rate.”

The state’s cannabis marketplace opened Jan. 1, but only to those businesses that have received permits from their local government and a license from the state.

In November, the board adopted an ordinance that would allow existing growers — meaning growers who had existing farms as of Jan. 1, 2016 — who had completed permits submitted to the county by July 14, 2017, to apply for a temporary permit. This permit would limit them to the cultivation area they were growing as of Jan. 1, 2016, and would allow them to apply for a temporary state license so that they could be ready by Jan. 1.

The grower has to sign a compliance agreement that, if violated, could result in their permit being permanently withdrawn.

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These interim county permits expire June 30, 2018. The state temporary licenses expire after 120 days, but can be extended another 180 days if that person has applied for a permanent state license.

On Tuesday, the board voted to amend its temporary permit program amendments by doing away with the requirement that the applicant needed to have a completed permit by July 14.

Planning and Building Department Director John Ford said his Cannabis Services Division has issued 360 interim permits so far. Another 650 people would be eligible for a temporary permit once the amendments are adopted, Ford said.

Temporary permit holders would have until the end of the year to complete their full permit, according to Ford.

Ford said that interim permits are their highest priority right now for processing, with hundreds in various stages of the permitting process.

“We really want to be in a place to have our permitting and the state permitting meshing,” Ford said. “We don’t want to have, as was mentioned, a train wreck.”

Ford said the county has given prospective cannabis business owners plenty of time to complete their permits in the past, even extending the due date to complete their applications last year. Ford said that about 500 applications were deemed withdrawn after the applicant failed to provide the necessary documentation and information to complete their permits.

Earlier in the meeting, the board voted to delay their discussion of an ordinance that would expand the county’s cannabis industry to a special meeting on March 19.

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