The Sheriff’s office has fielded many questions over the past several months regarding how the changes in the law will affect enforcement of illegal marijuana cultivation in the county.
Proposition 64, the adult recreational use of marijuana, allows any adult age 21 and older to grow six plants on their property, possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and possess up to 4 grams of concentrated cannabis. No persons can smoke marijuana in a vehicle or in a public place.
The State of California and the County of Humboldt have passed laws and ordinances to create a clear path to legitimacy for persons that choose to grow commercial marijuana.
Since the passage of the Humboldt County Commercial Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance and the adult recreational use state law, we have seen exponential growth in the illegal production of marijuana in the county.
As the county permit process has shown, the motivation to become compliant with the law is limited with the cultivators.
Out of the 12,000-plus documented grow sites in the county, only 2,300-plus permit applications were filed with the Planning Department.
The 2,300 applicants are in various stages in the permit process. Forty-three growers and processors have received permits from the County. Over 800 permit applications are now complete for processing and are moving through the governmental approval process.
Permit applications with the Planning Department that have been inactive for over 6 months will be deemed “withdrawn” from the permit process. An application for a cultivation site that has been deemed “withdrawn” will no longer be viewed as a lawful growing operation.
The Sheriff’s Office views all Humboldt County permitted growers as being licensed, lawful and legitimate marijuana cultivators in the county. A permitted grower will have the following documentation on site:
• County Conditional Use Permit/Special Permit or Zoning Clearance Certificate approved by the Planning Department.
• County Business License for marijuana.
Absent a valid permit, the Sheriff’s Office will use the following criteria to determine if a subject is operating a lawful commercial marijuana grow site in the county. The grower shall have all of the documentation on site in order to prove the validity of their growing operation. The following is a list of documentation necessary to prove legitimacy.
• For sites which have not yet received County approval – Humboldt County Permit Application Filed – possession of a signed affidavit “commercial cannabis activity” with a blue HC Planning Department stamp.
• Grower will have a documented site plan, cultivation/operations plan including a detailed description of water source/storage, environmental protection and storage of pesticides and other regulated products.
• Grower will have a Processing Plan to identify cultivation areas, cycles and plant count.
• Distribution plan: MOU/Contracts/Agreements with licensed dispensaries for established product from the grower.
• Grower (if applicable) will have a copy of their permit, license or registration from the State Water Resources Control Board Division of Water Rights, Streambed Alteration Permit from Department of Fish & Wildlife, a copy of any well permits, a copy of a CalFire approved timber conversation (if applicable).
• Valid Sellers Permit from the Board of Equalization and possess an Employers Identification Number.
• The commercial grower will have a federal and state identification number from the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the California Employment Development Department (EDD) and have documentation that they are paying all taxes as required by state and federal tax laws.
The Sheriff’s Office is firmly committed to investigate and enforce all of the California marijuana laws and hold the violators accountable.
If a marijuana cultivation site does not have a permit application in process and the cultivator fails to have the above-listed documentation, enforcement action will be taken. Per the policy of the Sheriff’s Office, all the marijuana will be removed on site and the suspects will be arrested.
A permitted grower cannot grow what they have not applied for. If a permitted cultivator is growing outside of their permit size but is otherwise lawful the investigation becomes a county Code Enforcement Unit (CEU) issue. CEU has the authority to investigate, issue fines, and issue destruction orders through the county. All cultivators who are in the permit process who are growing over their application limits could be subject to criminal prosecution and referred to the CEU for investigation.
The county Board of Supervisors approved the Sheriff’s request to hire two additional deputy sheriffs for marijuana enforcement.
The Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU), Department of Fish and Wildlife, CalFire, State Water Resources, and County Code Enforcement will be teaming up to enforce both criminal and civil laws associated with the illegal cultivation of marijuana.
Since marijuana is a 365-day operation, the DEU will be tasked with working illegal cultivation cases throughout the year.
Marijuana enforcement priorities are going to continue to be complaint driven. The DEU will be targeting the most egregious violators of the law.
The following will be the priorities for Sheriff’s marijuana enforcement for the county:
1. Enforcing state marijuana laws on the non-county permitted growers.
2. Preventing the sale and distribution of marijuana to minors.
3. Enforcing state marijuana laws on the properties that are damaging the environment through the destruction of our forest, rivers, streams and wildlife.
4. Enforcing “trespass grows” on public or private land where the growing of marijuana has not been authorized by the landowner.
5. Prevent/investigate human trafficking associated with marijuana cultivation.
6. Enforce state firearms laws at illegal marijuana cultivation sites.
7. Preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels.
8. Preventing the distribution of the marijuana cultivated in Humboldt County to areas outside the State of California.
9. Preventing Humboldt County authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or a pretext for the trafficking of illegal drugs or other illegal activity.
If you have information regarding illegal marijuana cultivation or environmental damage from a marijuana growing operation, we ask you to contact one of the following phone numbers:
• Illegal cultivation – Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Tip Line: (707) 268-2539
• Environmental Damage, water diversion, illegal grading associated with marijuana cultivation – Fish and Wildlife Northern Region Eureka Field Office: (707) 445-6493 or (888) 334-2258
• Illegal water distribution, illegal water diversion, water contamination -
State Water Board: (916) 341-5272 or OECannabis@waterboards.ca.gov.
• Illegal timber conversions - CalFire: (707) 725-4413. Ask for Resource Management.
• Illegal grading, unpermitted structures, growing more than permitted – Humboldt County Code Enforcement Unit: (707) 476-2429
• Illegal dumping, hazardous materials, improper water storage, Sewage Humboldt County Environmental Health: (707) 445-6215 or 1 (800) 963-9241.
• For information on State Licensing, transportation, dispensaries, and distribution – Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation: bmmr.dca.ca.gov/,
1 (800) 952-5210 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
William Honsal is the Humboldt County Sheriff.