On Aug. 9, 2016, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors unanimously decided to place a local commercial marijuana cultivation measure on the county’s ballot in November.
The measure, known as the Humboldt County Commercial Marijuana Cultivation Tax Ordinance, would tax legally authorized commercial cultivators within the unincorporated area of Humboldt County, with the tax rate dependent upon the type of cultivation being used.
If voters in Humboldt county pass the measure in November, outdoor cultivation areas would be taxed at $1 per square foot, mixed-light cultivation areas would be taxed at $2 per square foot and indoor cultivation areas would be taxed at $3 per square foot.
Humboldt County has proposed the tax as a means of raising revenue for general purposes in the county, including environmental clean-up and restoration, public safety and mental health services, among others.
“Illegal marijuana grows have caused a lot of harm to our watersheds and our environment over the years,” said Mark Lovelace, 3rd District Supervisor and Chair of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. “They’ve cleared forests, sucked streams dry and polluted our environment with toxic pesticides. Regulating and taxing legal marijuana cultivation ensures that this industry pays its fair share to fix this past harm and to protect public health, safety and the environment.”
While the board wants the measure to pass, some cultivators in Humboldt are opposed to the measure, claiming it may push out those smaller cannabis farms that aren’t able to absorb the cost of the tax as easily as their larger competitors.
“The timing of this measure impacts small farmers much more deeply than large, factory-style farms. In the next 18 months, small and large farmers are burdened with the same fees, farm upgrades and new operating expenses,” said the Humboldt County Cannabis Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors in a statement released on Aug. 2. “Long-term fixed costs based solely on canopy space leave our cottage farmers with limited options: scale up, sell out or stay black market.”
On the flip side, Isaiah O’Donnell, founding member of Emerald Family Farms, believes the county’s tax proposal has a simple and fair structure.
“We need that simplicity right now as we’re emerging from the shadows and creating legitimacy to the industry,” O’Donnell said to Eureka Times-Standard. “I think the supervisors did a very good job knowing how much investment it takes to bring one of these farms into compliance.”
The registered voters of Humboldt County will decide the fate of this tax on Nov. 8.