Thousands of farms in California’s iconic Humboldt County have feared they wouldn’t be able to transition to the legal market. Now, they’re suddenly being ordered to stop operations.
Rio Anderson looks out over a valley from his mountain-top farm in Humboldt County, CA on May 12, 2018. (Photo by Martin do Nascimento for Herb)
Around 330 cease and desist orders have been sent out to those who are allegedly growing marijuana illegally in Northern California’s Humboldt County, according to a report by local journalist Kym Kemp.
The region has been the center of underground grow-ops in America since the 1960s and is currently home to approximately 12,500 cannabis farms which make up what is known as the Emerald Triangle.
Since California legalized cannabis in 2016, the farmers who grow among the county’s redwoods have feared that legalization could spell the end for their family farms.
When Herb spoke to local farmers in December of 2017, they lamented that the new system’s exorbitant fees would force some family farms to dip into their savings to become legal. And in May, Governor Jerry Brown announced that the state would spend $14 million on a plan to eliminate or absorb underground farms into the legal market. Only about one in ten Humboldt farms is expected to go legal.
The Director at the Humboldt County Planning and Building Department, John Ford, said cease and desist orders were handed out to protect the environment in the region against illegal grow-ops, which could negatively affect the regions wildlife and water supply.
The orders were also issued to “level the playing field” between those who have chosen to register as growers in the state’s legal program and those who continue to grow outside of an official regulatory system as they always have.
But as Kemp reported, a number of those who received the order to stop growing illegally were not growing at all, while others were growing less than 50 plants using their own stored water rather than drawing directly from local sources.
“If it’s pretty obvious that it’s more than personal, that’s where the abatement comes in. The abatement is only for areas that are considered to be commercial in nature,” County Supervisor Estelle Fennell told Kemp, insisting that the fees to transition aren’t as prohibitive as they initially seemed.
As Herb reported in June, even those who are in the process of transitioning can get caught up in raids and inspections. They carry “interim permits” to grow while they wait for the government’s lengthy approval process to legalize their family farms. Fennell insists that Humboldt does not want to chase the industry out of the region and encouraged concerned farmers to come and see her.