Weeding out the OG’s

Small legal cannabis farmers face extinction in upcoming elections

by Monica Robinson

Authentic champagne is created in France, highly acclaimed wine comes from Napa and Humboldt County stands as the central hub for premium cannabis. 

Measure A, also known as the Humboldt Cannabis Reform Initiative (HCRI), is a voter initiative scheduled to appear on the March 5, 2024 ballot in Humboldt County. If approved by voters, this measure would introduce 38 pages of new rules and restrictions to all existing cannabis farmers operating legally in Humboldt.

Origins of HCRI

The HCRI spawned from a conflict between Kneeland residents and a neighboring cannabis farm concerning water resources and traffic. Mark Thurmond and Cal Poly Professor Emerita Betsy Watson took charge as proponents, collaborating with people in other areas of the county. 

A petition circulated, highlighting the protection of the environment and small cannabis farmers, along with preventing large scale cannabis farms. After reaching 7,000 signatures, the measure qualified for the ballot. 

Notably, the 38-page initiative was drafted by a San Francisco law firm, Shute Mihaly & Weinberger, which was submitted on March 4, 2022, and did not undergo public review or receive public input. If passed, Measure A cannot be altered or amended from its original form, requiring a ballot initiative for the next elections. 

Current legislation

Due to the impact of changing market dynamics and statewide legalization of cannabis, Humboldt County revamped its legal framework. The Humboldt Board of Supervisors (BOS) enacted two land use ordinances, starting with the Commercial Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance in 2016 and the Commercial Cannabis Land Use Ordinance in 2018. 

Both followed public scrutiny with many stakeholders including cannabis cultivators, environmental groups, neighborhood organizations, as well as county and state officials for implementation. Further refinements were made in 2020 to enhance the framework’s efficacy. 

“These changes have successfully reduced the overall environmental footprint of the industry and strategically relocated many [cannabis] farms to agricultural land,” said Executive Director of the Humboldt County Growers Alliance (HCGA), Natalynne Delapp. 

Delapp explained how the county has experienced an 89% decline in cannabis farms since 2015, decreasing from 15,000 illegal grows to 775 legal permitted farms, with an estimated 1,000 illegally still operating.To obtain cultivation permits, applicants must display the serviceability of their farms’ access roads, reduce neighborhood impacts and ensure water sourcing methods are environmentally sustainable. 

At a BOS meeting on June 27, 2023, the Director of Planning, John Ford, explained the agencies subject to review include the county Department of Public Works, Department of Environmental Health, along with state and federal agencies owning public land, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Regional Water Quality Control Board and often surrounding tribes.

Foggy fine print

The initiative would modify the county’s General Plan, which serves as the primary guide for land use planning in Humboldt. Delapp said this revision would replace a significant portion of the existing county cannabis regulations, which took eight years of robust public process.

The initiative is “unworkable and would be devastating to the [local] cannabis industry,” said Attorney Paul Hagen from the North Coast Environmental Law Office.

A restriction of one active permit per cultivator could leave additional permits for activities void. 

“If Measure A passes, the seed of [Humboldt] cannabis tourism will die before it has a chance to root,” said Founder of Humboldt Cannabis Tours, Matt Kurth. 

Annual expiration of cultivation permits would make reapplication necessary. The vagueness of the renewal process creates ambiguity regarding public hearings for renewal applications. Ford explains in the Amended Analysis that conducting public hearings annually for permit renewals is inconceivable. Furthermore, renewal on any outstanding complaints would be prohibited regardless of validation. 

  The HCRI broadly defines expansion as “any increase in the number or size of structures connected to cultivation,” including environmental improvements. In relation, farms must be located on two-lane paved roads, challenging the hundreds of farms currently operating on dirt roads. According to a technical memorandum provided by LACO Technologies engineering department for the county in 2020, upgrades would range from $170,000 to $280,000 per mile.

Cultivation of cannabis includes drying, curing, grading and trimming, requiring a ‘processing’ license which would also be prohibited. 

Additionally, farms would be capped at 10,000 square feet, including a discretionary review for  any expansion over 3,000 square feet. 

Out of sight, out of mind

In an effort to explain why class II whitewater rapids rivers are being de-watered, Watson provided a map of permitted cannabis farms. She said there were 1200 active cannabis permits with an estimated 300 non-operational due to the overproduction of cannabis statewide from price drops. 

“In 2022, the south fork of the Eel [river] ran dry, and Freshwater Creek did not have enough water for the park to have its annual swimming hole,”said Watson.“The ordinance in place now calls for 2400 more [permits], for a total of 3600.” 

Watson added that the initiative would cap the number of permits at 1200. 

According to the HCRI Amended Analysis by the Humboldt County Planning and Building Department on June 27, 2023, there are 1,027 active permits, with 210 of them being newly approved. Areas with prime agricultural land are concentrated with retirement, remediation and relocation permits, which were redirected from environmentally sensitive areas.

“This is prohibition masquerading as environmentalism,” Delapp said. 

A controversial summary, due to letters filed back and forth between HCRI’s attorney and the county’s Planning Department of the HCRI analysis, refers to geological studies, stating “the initiative’s groundwater protection measures are unnecessary because average per-acre groundwater recharge in Humboldt County is high, even during drought years.”  

Currently, there are no environmental groups in the county endorsing the initiative or taking sides. 

“The current ordinance is the best in the country, maybe even the world,” a confidential source from a local environmental group said.


As of  Oct. 11, 2023, the HCGA and seven cannabis farmers filed a lawsuit at the Humboldt County Court, alleging the petition of the HCRI did not include the complete initiative text, as required by law. It also contests false and misleading information in the petition. As a result, the lawsuit seeks the removal of the initiative from the ballot to protect the integrity of the election process.

If you are not a registered voter and want to participate, go to http://registertovote.ca.gov. The last day to register is Oct. 23, 2023.

Share This Post

More Stories

Nina G uses comedy to start conversations

During the virtual comedy event held by the SDRC, Nina Ghiselli tells her story and emphasizes the importance of student disability resources within schools.

It’s not just the Capitol Police

As the world watched from their televisions on January 6, we witnessed scenes unfold before our eyes that were, to many, unimaginable: supporters of President Trump swarmed the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building, then proceeded to break in and

The San Jose State University Football Team Comes to Humboldt

On a day’s notice from administration, the SJSU football team spends a week and a half in Humboldt practicing because their county did not allow it. Students react to their presence on campus in the midst of a pandemic. Directed

Homelessness in Humboldt, CA

This is the first trailer of a homeless documentary created by HSU students. We have spent months filming and will continue to film throughout the next year. Follow the heartbreaking stories of the homeless community around Humboldt county and the

Thrifty Arcata

Taking a tour of the local thrift shops in Arcata during the COVID-19 pandemic. Directed and produced by Skylar Gaven.

House Plants Generate Peace and Meaning During the Pandemic

Three different people with the same love for plants! House plants have become quite popular these days especially since we’re all basically stuck inside during the pandemic. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but these beautiful green oxygen-makers provide more

Prop 22 represents political favoritism of money over workers’ rights

California’s passing of proposition 22 on Nov. 5 represents a frustrating history of workers’ rights being trampled by the overwhelming influence of greed in politics.  This proposition forces app-based workers to be classified as independent contractors, rather than employees. This

Remembering Evelyn Andrews 10 months after her passing

By Katelyn Dendas It has been 10 months since my friend, teammate and freshman year dorm mate, Evelyn Andrews, passed away. I don’t remember what the grief counselor said or what transpired after that Monday, but I do remember arriving

Protestors seek to defund HSUPD

Two local, activist organizations work together to stage a sit-in against Humboldt State’s police department.

Getting stuck on the Trump train

Writer Anthony Aragon details his experience of accidentally joining a pro-Trump car rally.

Justin Turner exposes the World Series to COVID-19

Justin Turner didn’t need to be the story in the wake of the Dodgers’ first World Series victory in 32 years. Instead here we are, wondering what sort of, if any, punishment Major League Baseball will decide to hand down

Four more years of fear

News Editor Carlos Holguin explains why he is worried about the next four years.

Dismal democracy

The Lumberjack editorial staff comments on America’s flawed electoral system As the world watches the United States 2020 election results, waiting for our pseudodemocratic process to churn out a new president, historically unprecedented voting methods misrepresents the reported Election Day

The Mario triple pack invokes a nostalgia attack

When I was a child, the first video game system I owned was a Nintendo 64. Among the games I played was Super Mario 64. I played it all the time and when I wasn’t playing it, I was lying

Women’s lacrosse drops their competitive season

Greta Roberts, president and player of Humboldt State University’s women’s lacrosse team, made the decision with her coach and teammates to cancel the upcoming spring season. The team decided that not being able to recruit in the fall would be

Dobby’s proposition opinions

Haven’t voted yet? Well, you’re running out of time. Here’s a quick rundown of California’s propositions on the ballot this year

Corporations buy out propositions

In a series of general and misleading advertisements, corporate backers of Propositions 22 and 23 show their grubby hands

CDOR continues virtually

The Campus and Community Dialogue On Race returns covering global justice for Black Lives.

Indigenous Food Sovereignty

Local food management practices of the Tolowa Dee-ni, Yurok and other indigenous peoples.

Humboldt State Admin attempts to discredit the Lumberjack

***A Lumberjack editorial represents both the majority opinion of the student newspaper’s editorial board, nine editors, as well as the overwhelming majority of Humboldt State University’s student body. Collectively, an editorial echos, embodies and advocates for community beliefs.*** Insensitive communications

Music of the Moment 6

21 Savage and Metro Boomin drop a classic with “Savage Mode II”

Spartans arrive at HSU despite campus concerns

***Editor’s note: SJSU football program was tested in congruence with Mountain West conference guidelines*** The Spartans have arrived and this time they’re not carrying spears or shields. Instead the San Jose State football team stepped onto the Humboldt State campus

Music of the Moment 5

After shooting Megan Thee Stallion, Tory Lanez cancels himself

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Comparisons between episodes of the classic TV show The Twilight Zone and our own dismal reality

Music of the Moment 4

YoungBoy Never Broke Again dodges the sophomore slump with his new album “Top.”

Self-Care Cuts

Changing your hair to change your life

HSU Seaweed Farm sets sail

The first commercially-approved seaweed farm in California will be on the map.

Music of the Moment 3

For better or worse, Big Sean is likely gone for good.

More Layers, More Protection?

Humboldt State demands double masking on campus, does more layers equal more protection?

The Ethnic Studies Bill is a Blessing

Ethnic Studies will thankfully become mandatory for all California State University students – as it should be.

The Complex Interface of Humans and Wildfires

How fire suppression is a mixed bag in Humboldt County Every fire season, blankets of smoke roll over Humboldt County. Here on the coast, that’s as close to wildfires as some of us get. But our practice of fire suppression

Defund HSU’s Police Department

Incidents of racism from the former UPD Chief, past examples of excessive force from current officers and a shrinking university budget.

How Not To Be Bitten By A Kitten

Please prepare to be prey Congratulations, a baby feline has recently come into your life. If they’re anywhere from 2-18 months, they bite. They see you as prey. Because you are prey. You always have been. You always will be.

Graduating Into Uncharted Waters

HSU graduates attempt to navigate a world turned upside-down by COVID-19 In May, Humboldt State University graduated hundreds of students, as it does every year. Unlike past years, graduates didn’t get to shake hands with their respective dean and receive

HSU Cultural Center Budget Slashed

Associated Students leaves student body devastated after significant reductions in cultural center’s budget.

All aboard the plague ship

Unprecedented times are met with normalized behavior, HSU puts students and community members at higher risk after reopening campus and student housing.

Music of the Moment

The hip-hop community rallies behind the Black Lives Matter Movement

Inside the Immune System

How the body uses multiple levels of defense against foreign intruders

Catcalling Can’t Continue

Verbal harassment toward women is about control and the assertion of gender discrimination

Major League Marijuana

Why I don’t think marijuana is everything it’s cracked up to be in baseball

Pigs Compost on Campus

CCAT tries to reduce HSU’s food waste footprint through new pig program