In Humboldt County, Small Growers Feel the Sting of Enforcement

Some 2,500 people have applied for cannabis permits in Humboldt County but, today, just 448 cultivation permits have been approved—many of which belong to the same person or entity. Contrast that with the number of nuisance abatement notices handed out in the past three years. According to one analysis from Nichole Norris at Redheaded Blackbelt, they’re more than double the amount of approved permits.

In less than three years, the abatement program is set to collect at least $4,707,086.45 from Humboldt County property owners in penalties, costs, fines, and fees. (This does not include 12 $900,000 Property Liens which have not been finalized, totaling $10.8 million. We will cover this topic in an upcoming story). Some of those residents snared may have caused egregious damage to the environment and some may have been growing small vegetable plots. (Note: these numbers are derived from the 969 cases that we gathered through a Freedom of Information request to the County of Humboldt in March, one additional case was discovered in a separate Freedom of Information Request from November. There may be more that we did not discover.)

It’s a reminder that, for cannabis’ historical hub, legalization is not all it was cracked up to be. The barriers are still too high for small growers hoping to enter the legal marketplace. And too often, abatement programs target mom and pop farms instead of the large-scale cultivators who cause the bulk of environmental and societal damage.

The County wields abatement letters like a stick to bring black market growers into the legal market. But the stick often smacks the small cultivator who has minimal impact on the land as hard as it strikes the large grower who may have many environmental impacts. The stick may even strike someone who wasn’t growing marijuana at all.

Read more about the inequities affecting Humboldt County’s marijuana enforcement here