Crescent City

After 8 days of rain (and 2 earthquakes) I got out of Eureka and landed in Crescent City at one of my favorite rv parks. I’ll be here a few days; the forecast is sunshine for a week which makes the Oregon coast a most pleasant drive ahead of me.

And more on CA cannabis

It’s been very wet here, so it was a good time to watch government tv while the new ordinances for cannabis in Humboldt County were being presented and public input taken. Spend a week watching public policy being made? I wouldn’t recommend it.

California’s cannabis legalization system seems to go by the term “dual permitting”, which means you need a local jurisdiction’s permit to get a state license. I was in awe when I first saw the California state laws and regs. Last week Humboldt released their requirements, a 2000 page document. Put the two together if you want to grow weed in Humboldt, but I recommend a degree in law or public policy if you want to be in compliance. Millions of dollars would be nice, too.

My observations:

Nothing happens in Humboldt without consensus or at least input from everybody. The long-time pot farmers know well how to go to Eureka and speak up for their rights. And they know how to vote for their law-makers because the electeds are extremely well-informed on the subject. With the exception of one or two who are struggling with the reality around them. Weed and government have been partners in this county for decades.

Everyone in Humboldt wants to see the new world as “artisan-grown” cannabis commanding a high price from the discriminating customer which supports a family-run farm up in the redwoods fed by a snow-melt stream. That’s what I want to see.

It’s not even three months into legalization and licensed farmers (“cultivators” is the CA term for those now) with monstrous greenhouses in the desert now producing more output than Humboldt. That product, the genetics developed in Humboldt, is grown for extractions, not bagged flowers. Customers are vaping, not rolling joints.

A majority here see this happening and know it’s the end of their dream, and are begging for regulatory relief. The electeds are very sympathetic, but they need to create rational rules. Two thousand pages worth.

I just happened to be here when a cultural meme took it’s death blow. Long live Humboldt.

Earthquake

I’ve heard/seen references to “California Earthquake Authority”, which struck me as a bit odd as it sounds like they authorize and regulate earthquakes. That is entirely plausible in this state. Turns out, it’s an insurance program.

But this morning I sat through a 4.5 magnitude for about 30 seconds. Just about any size of earthquake is of little matter in an RV, and this was a tiny one compared to others I’ve felt.

So I thought of calling the Authority to complain; I know they can do better, and they shouldn’t be wasting their time on such little ones….

Humboldt County

The phrase “Humboldt Grown Cannabis” has a potential marketing value of billions of dollars, kinda like “Napa Valley Wine”. As am I’m here in Eureka, I can watch the government tv channel for County meetings, the City of Eureka, and the City of Arcata. Jurisdictions that are serious about getting this stuff right work pretty much all the time on cannabis, mainly because they see it as an existential issue.

There are about 5000 farmers in Humboldt [all numbers, as usual, are guesses] which grow about 3 million pounds of cannabis a year, enough to supply the entire state with legal weed. So far about 800 have licenses have been issued, a disturbingly low ratio. This phenomena is being reported state-wide. There are many reasons why someone might not want a license: cost, hassle, government intrusion, personal rights, and strong cultural forces are a few I can see.

Eureka set aside a few blocks downtown for the cannabis extraction companies, and is seeking to set aside some bay-front property for production facilities. Meanwhile, across the bay a mile or so, Arcata has a “marijuana industry zone”, where a lumber mill once lived. Each town has two retail shops, with more in process or planned.

The electeds are quickly discussing making adjustments in the laws and rules. They’ve noted that the stores do a very good job of fixing up long-vacant properties, and they’re getting questions about tourist accomodations. Like winery tours. As they consider how to help to make something work, they’re questioning why they started out so hard. The council reps and county supervisors are getting on board in an enthusiastic way. Everyone has been telling them to do so for two years, but better late than never.

Whether “Humboldt Grown” becomes a valuable property depends on the regulatory agencies.

Calaveras County

California’s new legal system seems to be working, though it’s impossibly early to tell for sure. I’ll be talking about that more, but there is one place where it didn’t work.

Calaveras County is in the Sierras, and was once a logging place until the mill shut down. The county went ahead and authorized many cannabis farmers in 2016. Once they had their permits they could build out, grow a crop, and pay the taxes. In January 2018, the county changed it’s mind and banned all the growers they had permitted. After collecting about $10 million in fees and taxes.

Now they have nothing except a ton of lawsuits. And the big question of which businesses are they going to attract to the county now?

So far, that’s a worst-case situation.

Eureka

It took almost a week for the rain to let up enough so I could travel. I’m now in Fortuna, about 20 miles south of Eureka. There will be two nice days, then a new rain thing will come in. At least I’m on the coast now so there’s something to see.

California Pot, a good read

I’m heading to Eureka tomorrow, and
this article
came out today. It’s by far the most comprehensive and accurate description of the cannabis scene here right now. Recommended.

The Solar Living Center

I’ve written about this place many times. It’s a must-stop when I’m in Ukiah. I was surprised to find one of the very first legal pot shops in California on the grounds. It had just opened, there were two people plus a security guard, they had product, prices were low enough to make me think they’ve made an error. Their claim to fame is that they are totally solar-powered.

What was striking is the setting: the center is a collection of functional exhibits including ponds and gardens and play areas; there is school bus parking in the lot, and the place is obviously prepared for groups. In no state in the union would this be permitted, a weed store anywhere near where children gather. So that was unusual.

It’s also the only legal pot store on US-101 in Mendocino County. Mendo is the heart of the nation’s cannabis, yet there aren’t any stores open yet. Two will open soon in Ukiah, but that’s it for a while.

I don’t expect this place (the solar-powered pot shop) to last for more than weeks. There could be state enforcement, a local lawsuit, or (more likely) a complaint from another store as soon as they get their license for a nearby location.

Parked in Ukiah

I am at the fairgrounds in Ukiah, a place I’ve stayed in many times. Like Sonoma County, it has trailers for the fire victims, about half the capacity of the park, leaving the good middles spaces for us travelers.

FEMA arranged for rv’s on dealer’s lots to put into whatever parking spaces, public or privately run, were available. Last fall they occupied everything. Now they are down to 50%.

So I’m in a regular routine rv park surrounded by model year 2017, varied brands and models, in the 2017 colors, from Camping World. Trailers, fifth wheels, and the occasional motor home, of all lengths and styles.

So what if you’ve never entered or thought about an rv and one day you are forced to live in a, say, 30 foot fifth wheel, unseen by you? Weird, uh?

It’s interesting seeing how a “small” disaster is handled.

Ukiah

The forecast called for a storm to come in today, and stick around for “several” days. It was a beautiful morning so I packed up and left for Ukiah, about an hour’s drive north. If I’m going to be stuck waiting out bad weather, I’d rather be in Ukiah than Santa Rosa.

I got a small look at the fire damage in Santa Rosa. What happened last fall was a typical wildfire: high winds pushed a grass fire around, perhaps scorching the oaks and conifers. Completely normal and natural, and generally harmless. But, recent home building provided fuel. To look at the countryside that burned today is to see nothing but healthy green grass, nice mature trees, and some perfectly fine vineyards. Not a structure to be seen.

This is a natural fire area, fire is routine here. If the houses hadn’t been there, it would have been most ordinary. Nonetheless, Sonoma County voted the other day to issue permits to build again (with one dissenting vote), guaranteeing that the disaster will happen again in the near future. The same that California does with slide-prone areas: Bury the dead, clean up the mess, and build again.

If Sonoma and Napa didn’t insist on building housing developments, they could leave it to grapevines, hay, pasture, and now, cannabis. Ventures that can withstand the routine fires.

I came into Ukiah while it was clear and sunny (the storm came in an hour later) and given the time of year, the brown swatches in the hills marked the cannabis farms. I’ve seen this damage around Ashland, Oregon, and it looks like crap. The amount of the scarring is astonishing. All of those operations (with few exceptions) are now illegal in CA, but moving them to more rational places is very expensive, very bureaucratic, and very time-consuming.

Santa Rosa took some very pro-active moves last summer to provide suitable areas at reasonable cost to correct this, but their plans got interrupted by the fire. It’s planting time, and there are no legal places to plant. Besides, do you know much land costs in Sonoma County? Compared to “borrowing” the public land up in the hills?

Ukiah (Mendocino County) might be the most cannabis-intensive area around, and just last Friday they approved developing a plan to allow sales in town. It seems odd, but the residents don’t buy marijuana for personal use, and the farmers export to the illegal states, so it’s not completely baffling. But it does suggest a lack of forward-thinking.

California legalized and regulated cannabis just nine weeks ago, and is issuing licenses at a fast clip. And, they have already started warning that everyone without a license is illegal. No slack: get your paperwork in right now or be shut down. There is going to be some serious complaining around here pretty soon….