Mike Dronkers / Friday, Jan. 10 @ 10:04 a.m. / marijuana
The cover story on this week's North Coast Journal looks at the fine print of marijuana's recent legalization in Washington State.
From security cameras to inspection labs, Washington's pot growers have a lot of bureaucratic challenges ahead.
Twenty-year Petrolian-turned-Washingtonian Seth Zuckerman believes legalization's impact could "separate the black and grey market growers who can adapt from the ones whose skills are fit only for the era of outlaw pot."
So does this mean your local night school's business management classes will get flooded with growers? Unlikely in the immediate future, he said.
Authorities are "anticipating, that even 10 years out, only 40 percent of marijuana smoked in Washington state is going to go through their licensed retail stores," (5:12) he told KHUM.
And what about those mulitnationals coming in? Zuckerman said the law is built to limit consolidation (3:36):
"If you're a retailer, you can't have a growing license, so the idea is, that also has to spread around. There's not going to be anyone who has a vertically integrated operation, all the way from seed or seedling or clone all the way to the smoker.
Finally, you can't have more than three growing licences, and no growing license can be more than 30,000 square feet so all in all, that would add up to just a little over two acres for any one person or partnership or corporation.
So some of the fears people have that, you know RJ Reynolds or Gallo would capture the market... those couldn't happen."
Zuckerman spoke to KHUM today from Washington State. Listen to the nine-minute interview below.
Kevin Hoover: "It's a huge story." And he's right.
If you haven't read his piece yet in the Mad River Union, go do it right now. Then listen to the KHUM interview below, in which MRU reporter Kevin Hoover talks about what looks like a massive reduction in large-scale grow houses in Arcata.
The newly implemented Measure I levies a 45 percent surcharge on residences that use, effectively, a supermarket's worth of power. PG&E's data showed that Arcata had over 600 houses that met the criteria. Now that the tax bill is due, only 96 households meet the criteria.
While this does lead to tax revenue falling far short of the predictions presented to voters, the stated goal of reducing indoor growing in Arcata appears to be met.
Hoover told KHUM that the growers may have relocated -- to West End Road, say, or up to McKinleyville.
"I don't really know why they have to be located in Arcata. It seems like a pretty high-risk place to be growing. APD has this whole special services unit which is devoted to grow houses and they take 'em out with disturbing regularity.
You must have nards of steel to do that because cops are gonna come busting into your house."
Buried in the middle of yesterday's Humboldt County Board of Supervisor's meeting was an item exploring an electricity tax that might resemble Measure I, Arcata's so-called "Grower Tax." This would presumably apply to the county's unincorporated areas.
The board formed a subcommittee to explore a potential tax on residences using unusually high amounts of electricity.
If passed by voters, this would likely have some effect on the county's many bedroom growers.
The city of Arcata's Environmental Services deputy director Karen gave a presentation (watch it here) on how Arcata put Measure I together.
Arcata's law imposes a electricity users tax rate of 45 percent on residential customers whose residential usage exceeds 600 percent of established baseline allowances. She said that it was the intent of the tax to drive a residence's excessive electric consumption down to normal levels.
Hank Sims from the Lost Coast Outpost joined the conversation live on KHUM.
Would growers use generators to bypass the tax? Would that be different than if they bypassed it with rooftop solar? If put on a countywide ballot, would it pass?
Let us know what you think.
Kym Kemp / Monday, April 22, 2013 @ 5:59 a.m. / marijuana
Marijuana and tomatoes in a heavily mulched organic garden.
The Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research (HIIMR) held a symposium on marijuana and the environment over the weekend at Humboldt State University. Gary Hughes of EPIC, who moderated the opening forum, explained the goal of the event was to build a body of knowledge and create a shared dialog as well as a shared vocabulary to discuss cannabis and its effects on Humboldt. The hope, he said, is that the conversation would help the region develop a factual basis to deal clearly with the drawbacks while understanding the industry as a whole.
Most of the presentations at the event focused on the damage that some marijuana grows/growers are inflicting on the environment.
One of the speakers, Scott Bauer, staff environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said that marijuana activity in two of the watersheds that his team has been looking at, "exploded over the last six or seven years." He said that over the last three years, in one area examined, the acreage under production doubled. In another area, the impact "more than doubled." According to Bauer, his team estimated that 20 to 30 percent of the flow of one of the creeks he looked at is consumed by marijuana grows.
These watersheds though are not the worst. Bauer worries that with ever larger grows going in this year that other waterways are going to be impacted severely. He thinks, for instance, that portions of the Van Duzen may underground entirely this summer. He is worried about numbers of fish dying as their habitat is diminished.
Nonetheless, Hezekiah Allen expressed the views of several of those involved in the event when he said, "Pot is not the problem, the practices are." Allen is executive director at the Mattole Restoration Council and has just announced that he is running for assemblyman on the North Coast. He is listed as a contact in a booklet called, "Best Management Practices -- Northern California Farmers Guide," which was distributed at the HIIMR event by attendees. The slender work is subtitled "A Prosperous Economy and a Healthy Environment -- Seeking Balance and sustainability in Northern California's 'Green Rush.'"
According to the booklet, marijuana growers (or farmers of other forms of agriculture) can use this work as "a starting point in the process of identifying and creating viable solutions to the environmental problems our agricultural activities may be exacerbating ... We believe that our proactive efforts will help prevent law enforcement and resource agencies from trying to solve these problems for us."
The booklet quickly outlines the major impacts of marijuana growing and offers ways that everyone, grower or non-grower, can improve their environmental footprint. Water is the first area addressed. The booklet explains, "Anytime you are taking water from a seasonal or year-round waterway such as a creek, stream, or river you are creating a water diversion." This "reduces streamflows and increases water temperatures [which] contributes to blue-green algae blooms in our rivers, affects the quality of water ... and threatens the survival of endangered salmon, steelhead, and other aquatic life."
Then it offers several steps that any outdoor gardener can take to reduce the impact of their water usage. Below are abbreviated versions of those steps.
- Inspect and fix water systems "all the collective drips add up!"
- Install float valves on tanks to keep water from overflowing.
- Install timers and drip irrigation.
- Water for 2-5 minutes 2-4 times per day (This keeps soil moist w/o wasting water or leaching nutrients.)
- Water when it is cool outside to reduce evaporation.
- Mulch and put drip lines and emitters under the mulch.
- Seed and mulch areas areas around your cultivated area that lack vegetation.
- Cover south and west sides of pots/containers with burlap to keep containers cool.
Burlap bag covering photo provided by Kyle Keegan
- Don't overwater.
- Collect water in the wet season and store to use during the dry season.
Storage tank photo provided by Kyle Keegan
There are several other concerns addressed in the booklet. Presenters at the HIIMR symposium also examined a number of these issues. The Lost Coast Outpost will be addressing the different concerns and the solutions suggested in coming stories.
According to Allen, the booklet will soon be found at most of the local environmental organizations -- the Mattole Restoration Council, Trees Foundation, EPIC, Friends of Eel River, etc. -- but the hope is that soon it will be available at many local retailers, too.
The top photo is by Kym Kemp. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, note that Kym Kemp is a founding member of Grow It in the Sun, an organization that supported the printing of the booklet. Contributions towards printing can be donated to: Southern Humboldt Community Credit Union, "Grow It in the Sun", Account #15031.
In an unusual Op-Ed on the eve of marijuana's high holiday*, the Gregory Brothers (best known for making music from TV news clips) are given some facetime on the New York Times' opinion page.
In this case, Autotune is the news.
"There must be something amiss if Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, former Representative Ron Paul of Texas and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, despite having different views on drug legalization, can all agree that the War on Drugs is fundamentally flawed. Mr. Paul has long favored ending the federal War on Drugs, while Governor Christie recently called it a failure. Though he does not support legalization. Governor Cuomo has introduced plans to bring fairness, through decriminalization methods, to the racial imbalance of marijuana-related arrests in New York City.
To us, the harmony of these criticisms begged to be recast as harmony of the musical variety. With the help of a supporting cast (including Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes of “Jay and Silent Bob” fame), the governors and the former congressman are almost able, in song, to resolve the dissonance of this failed policy."
*No pun intended whatsoever. Seriously.