Tag Archives: marijuana growing

State money available for cleaning former pot grow sites in Sonoma County

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Toxic chemicals. Dammed creeks. Forest clear-cuts. Abandoned trash.

These kinds of environmental degradation are the scourge of California’s North Coast, the detritus left behind from decades of highly profitable but unregulated marijuana cultivation.

But in a move state officials hope will make a dent in the thousands of remote sites in need of remediation, the Department of Fish and Wildlife is preparing to distribute $1.5 million for an initial round of watershed restoration projects made necessary by widespread and historically unchecked pot production.

“Existing damage to our watersheds due to unregulated cannabis cultivation is at crisis levels in terms of threats to habitat for aquatic and wildlife species,” agency Director Chuck Bonham said in a written news release.

“While many grow sites have been abandoned or shuttered, the infrastructure and ongoing damage remains.”

The newly launched Cannabis Restoration Grant Program reflects growing recognition of the devastating environmental impact of marijuana cultivation on private and public lands, even as public officials and the public itself moved to legalize its use in California, in part so it could be regulated.

Read more at: State money available for cleaning former pot grow sites in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Water

Can marijuana ever be environmentally friendly?

Natasha Geiling, THINK PROGRESS (from April 20, 2016)

Another big issue that the burgeoning cannabis industry will have to confront as legalization becomes increasingly widespread is the industry’s massive environmental footprint. Cannabis is the country’s most energy-intensive crop, largely because around a third of cannabis cultivation in the United States currently takes place in indoor warehouses, a process that requires huge amounts of lighting, ventilation, cooling, and dehumidifying. According to a 2016 report released by New Frontier Financials, cannabis cultivation annually consumes one percent of the United States’ total electrical output, which for a single industry growing a single crop, is a lot — roughly the equivalent of the electricity used by 1.7 million homes. If energy consumption continues at current levels, the electricity used by indoor cannabis operations in the Northwest alone will double in the next 20 years.

One of the first things that Tyson Haworth does when we meet on his farm in rural Oregon is spread his palms out, up toward the April sunshine, and apologize. “I just applied some predatory fungus in the greenhouse,” he says, splaying his fingers and inspecting his hands. He doesn’t use any synthetic pesticides on his farm, he explains, preferring predatory bugs and bacteria and fungi instead, and before he can show me around, he excuses himself to wash his hands in his house adjacent to the farm. Between the farm and the house, on the other side of the gravel driveway that leads visitors from the winding back roads onto Haworth’s property, is a wooden play structure — a sign of Haworth’s two kids, who are the reason he moved from Portland, about thirty miles north, to Canby.

Them, and because it was getting hard to keep growing his cannabis in a garage.

Haworth started cultivating cannabis in 2007, after his wife had to undergo a second back operation. The first time around, she took opiates to manage the pain, but she didn’t want to do that again. So Haworth — who grew up around his father’s wholesale produce company and worked as a manager of a wholesale organic distribution company himself — started growing cannabis, medically, both for his wife and for Oregon’s decades-old medical market. For years, Haworth cultivated cannabis on the side, not able to make enough profits from the medical market to become a full-time cannabis grower. Then, in 2013, Oregon’s medical marijuana market shifted, allowing, for the first time, a legitimate retail component.

And so Haworth put his organic produce job on hold and jumped feet first into cannabis cultivation, moving SoFresh Farms to Canby in 2014. But he didn’t want to completely eschew the decades of knowledge he had gained working in the organic produce industry. And so Haworth decided to do something that not many cannabis farmers were doing at the time: create an organic, sustainable cannabis farm, a place without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, a place that sequesters carbon and helps repopulate native flora. A place that grows cannabis and leaves the environment better for it.

“It’s not enough to not be bad,” Haworth said. “We want to be good. It’s not enough to not be part of the problem, we want to be part of the solution.”

Read more at: Can Marijuana Ever Be Environmentally Friendly?

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, Sustainable Living, Water

Sonoma County advances cleanup of illegal pot operation on public open space 

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A large illegal marijuana farm trashed part of a remote section of land owned by Sonoma County’s open space district, requiring what is expected to be a costly cleanup and highlighting once more the scourge of renegade pot operations on public land.

The now-abandoned plot, which county officials estimated had more than 1,000 pot plants, was discovered by an ecologist about four months ago on the former Cresta Ranch, which takes in steep, forested land northeast of Santa Rosa. The public property is among some 1,000 acres of land designated to one day become the Mark West Creek Regional Park and Open Space Preserve.

Sonoma County supervisors voted Tuesday to pursue $50,000 in grant money from CalRecycle, the state solid waste agency, to help repair the site. The Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District would tap its sales tax revenue for a similar amount to help cover the estimated cleanup cost.

The decision Tuesday, which included the first public report on the pot farm’s discovery, comes as local voters are already casting mail-in ballots for Measure A, a proposed cannabis business tax that is the only countywide issue in the March 7 special election. Measure A funds are intended to help cover the cost of implementing the county’s new medical marijuana regulations and would assist with cleanup of illegal sites like the one found at the former Cresta Ranch, officials said.

Read more at: Sonoma County advances cleanup of illegal pot operation on public open space | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, Sustainable Living

Sonoma County supervisors ban rural pot cultivation

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Siding with rural residents opposed to cannabis cultivation in their neighborhoods, Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday rejected a proposal to allow small-scale growers to farm marijuana in any rural residential zones outside city limits.

Supervisors Shirlee Zane, David Rabbitt and James Gore voiced strong support for an outright ban, opposing a county Planning Commission recommendation to allow cottage-sized cultivation on rural residential lots of 2 acres in size or more.

The three were forceful in their opposition, with Rabbitt and Gore saying they believe marijuana farms are not an appropriate land use, and Zane adding she’s most worried about crime associated with the industry.

“There’s a lot of violence with home invasions. … I think the crime element has not been discussed enough,” Zane said. “People who live in rural residential (areas) have a right to live in a safe community.”

The board, instead, voted to approve a broader, far-reaching land-use ordinance regulating marijuana cultivation, both indoors and outdoors, on agricultural and industrial zones across the county. Implementation is tied largely to the success of a marijuana cultivation tax set for a March 7 special election, or finding an alternative funding source.

Zane’s comments followed earlier testimony Tuesday from county law enforcement officials, who said crimes associated with marijuana cultivation and trimming appear to be growing in both number and severity.

Read more at: Sonoma County supervisors ban rural pot cultivation | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Land Use

Sonoma County to take up pivotal decision over medical marijuana regulation

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will hold its first hearing Tuesday on a proposed zoning ordinance that will determine where medical cannabis can be grown for profit.

Sonoma County’s move to recognize and regulate thousands of marijuana growers has triggered a high-stakes battle between pot producers intent on protecting their livelihood and rural residents who want cannabis cultivation pushed as far as possible from their homes.

It’s a land-use conflict that may have no satisfactory solution for either the estimated 3,000 marijuana growers or the 81,000 people living on land designated for residential use in the unincorporated area outside the county’s nine cities.

And it’s a culture clash between cannabis entrepreneurs who for decades have raised, in the legal shadows, an intoxicating crop that could rival the wine grape industry in value versus residents who say the proliferation of pot gardens is destroying their quality-of-life and diminishing property values in their rural neighborhoods.

From Cloverdale to the Willowside area west of Santa Rosa, from Bennett Valley on the city’s east flank and even in the upscale Montecito Heights area, residents tell of unfriendly strangers putting up tall fences, blacking out windows and converting nearby homes to marijuana operations of uncertain legality.

Pot producers, meanwhile, are concerned that 70 percent of the 31,383 properties on rural residential land are too small to meet the county’s proposed 2-acre minimum lot size for small grows.

Kathleen Whitener, who’s lived on a Willowside area cul de sac for 31 years, said she no longer enjoys gardening in her back yard, with a feeder that attracts green hummingbirds and an ash tree for shade.

“Now I just feel creepy out there,” she said.

Read more at: Sonoma County to take up pivotal decision over medical marijuana regulation

Filed under Land Use

Sonoma County Planning Commission OKs small rural pot gardens

Guy Kovner, THE EMERALD REPORT

Small-scale commercial marijuana gardens would be permitted in Sonoma County’s rural residential areas under a medical cannabis zoning ordinance approved by the county Planning Commission on Nov. 17.

The vote followed a renewed dispute between growers and residents who don’t want the plant cultivated in their neighborhoods.

The five-member commission’s final vote was unanimous, but it acknowledged an impassioned plea by Commissioner Willie Lamberson to reject the so-called “cottage grows” in two rural residential zones.“Wherever marijuana goes, crimes follow. That’s a fact,” Lamberson said. “Nothing good will come of this.”

In a direct appeal to his fellow commissioners, Lamberson, who represents the Fourth District, said: “In good conscience, I can’t vote for something I would not want for myself,” adding that his colleagues should take the same approach.

“Let’s be honest here,” he said. “Eighty or 90 percent of this cannabis ain’t going to dispensaries.”

The proposed land use rules, drafted in a hurry by county officials in the past 10 months, apply only to medical cannabis cultivation and other businesses in the unincorporated area outside the county’s nine cities.

State officials are in the process of establishing regulations for medical pot based on a law enacted by the Legislature last year, and California voters approved adult recreational use of marijuana at the polls last week.

Read more at: Sonoma County Planning Commission OKs small rural pot gardens – The Emerald Report

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Land Use

Sonoma County unveils marijuana land use ordinance

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the hundreds of Sonoma County residents who grow marijuana for a living as the county bureaucracy continues a rapid march toward regulating their well-known but largely invisible industry.
More than 200 people attended a Cannabis Community Meeting held by county officials Thursday night at the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa to explain a proposed land use ordinance just six days after it was released and two months before the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to enact it.

Public workshops on the ordinance regulating medical marijuana were held around the county in July and August.

“This is not perfect by any means, but it is a first step,” Board Chairman Efren Carrillo said, noting there is a “bright future” for cannabis in the county that abuts the famed Emerald Triangle pot-growing region.

When the meeting ended, Cory Bohn, a west county marijuana farmer for 15 years, said he wasn’t sure if he would fit in under the proposed regulations that dictate where the psychoactive herb can be grown.

“Prohibition’s over but there’s still a lot of rules,” Bohn said. “I want to be compliant but I have a family of five to support.”

Bohn said he grows marijuana in a rural residential area, in a land-use zone that is likely to generate the most debate over the county’s zoning plan.

Read more at: Sonoma County unveils marijuana land use ordinance | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, Water, Wildlife

Fight looms over location of medical marijuana farms in Sonoma County

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County is putting out a welcome mat for the medical marijuana industry, but it may not be as big as the industry would like as it emerges from the legal shadows.

Under California’s new medical marijuana law, cities and counties are allowed to regulate the location of pot-growing sites and other cannabis-related businesses, which may not obtain a state license until they have secured a local land use permit.

“We’re all here this morning because we believe there’s a bright future for cannabis in our community,” county Supervisor Efren Carrillo told a crowd of about 300 cannabis industry members at a conference Friday at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa.

The county’s first draft of its Medical Cannabis Land Use Ordinance, scheduled for public review next week, would focus cultivation and other pot businesses into the county’s agricultural and commercial/industrial areas, Carrillo said.

But Tawnie Logan, executive director of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance, said the proposal was too narrow. Rural residential lands and the county’s Resources and Rural Development District, which covers 30 percent of the county, should be considered for cultivation, she said.

“I think it’s an appropriate place,” she said in an interview, referring to the vast RRD district that covers mostly hilly, sparsely populated parts of the county.

Carrillo said he has heard conflicting messages from rural residents: They don’t want marijuana grown near them, but there already are numerous gardens in the county’s unincorporated area.

“That is going to be one of the areas where we are challenged the most,” said Carrillo, who sits on the county’s ad hoc medical cannabis committee with Supervisor Susan Gorin.

Read more at: Fight looms over location of medical marijuana farms in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Land Use

The booming marijuana industry has a major environmental footprint

Judith Lewis Mernit, CAPITAL & MAIN

A study on water demand from marijuana growing shows that 25% to 100% of the water in the study watersheds may be diverted during low-flow periods.

Another study estimates that indoor marijuana cultivation uses 3% of California’s total electricity.

In his sunny office on the edge of town in Arcata, California, Scott Greacen pulls up a slideshow on his large high-resolution monitor. As wildflowers sway in the wind outside a window, a woodsy guitar solo starts to play along with the pictures. Greacen mutes it; he wants to focus on destruction. Aerial images of clear-cut plots within the coastal forest, bounded by dusty roads and dotted with trucks, show the intrusion of industrial marijuana cultivation into redwood groves and hillsides. Some plots are small, barely detectable. Others cover hundreds of acres with row upon row of oblong structures covered with white tarps, blighting the landscape like giant predatory maggots.

“Look,” Greacen says, pointing to the screen. “Eleven greenhouses on the top of a ridge. Where does the water come from?”

Greacen, who has the genial appearance of a scholarly mountain man — neatly trimmed beard, wire-rimmed glasses, long hair parted in the middle and tied back — is the executive director of Friends of the Eel River, a nonprofit founded in 1994 to promote the restoration of California’s third-largest watershed. The 200-mile long Eel runs south to north from Mendocino County to the Pacific Ocean below the central Humboldt County city of Eureka. It has been hammered by industry for more than a century, dammed and drained to serve municipal water demand in Mendocino and Sonoma counties. Timber companies, too, have done their share of damage, stripping slide-prone land of stabilizing vegetation and causing sediment to clog the river’s already diminished flows.

“Our coast range has a seismic uplift equivalent to the Himalayas,” Greacen says. “If it weren’t for erosion, we’d have a Mount Everest.”

Mountains lifted out of the ancient seabed typically shed a certain amount of fine sediment into the Eel, but at a rate the river’s flow can handle. The accelerated spalling caused by roads, traffic and grading, sifts in much more. Anadromous salmon travel hundreds of miles from the ocean inland to spawn in the river bed’s oxygenated gravel. If that gravel is clogged with sediment, the eggs will suffocate before they hatch.

The Eel, its forks and many smaller tributaries had only recently begun to recover from timber’s assaults when, in the 1990s, a relatively benign, back-to-the-land cannabis movement exploded in Humboldt’s mountains. The Compassionate Use Act of 1996, passed by voters as Proposition 215, legalized marijuana for medical use, opening a whole new market for weed. Growing operations multiplied on public and private land in California, particularly in the forested reaches of Mendocino, Trinity and Humboldt counties, a region so full of cannabis crops it’s known as the “Emerald Triangle.”

Read more at: High Times: Marijuana Growing and the Environment – Capital & Main

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & Energy, Forests, Habitats, Land Use, Sustainable Living, Water, Wildlife

Secret marijuana gardens target of eradication campaign on North Coast

Julie Johnson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

This was far from the cocktail-hour networking meetings for cannabis companies, worlds away from sterile laboratories measuring THC levels and the marketing teams channeling a great entrepreneurial push fueled by California’s recent embrace of the medical marijuana industry.

This was the Lake County wilderness, where an orange peel, a crushed Coca-Cola can and a cairn of rocks marked a footpath leading into the chaparral-covered hills southwest of Kelseyville.

A sheriff’s detective in camouflage gear pushed through a dense thicket until the underbrush lightened between manzanita trunks. He stepped into a clearing and onto a line of black quarter-inch hose, something that’s become as ubiquitous in North Coast backcountry areas as poison oak.

Nearby, two men sleeping on cots under low-slung tarps were startled awake by the sound of deputies sneaking into their camp. They bolted, running through the woods wearing only underwear as the two officers chased after them, weighted down in vests and gear belts.

“When we hike in, almost every time we run into someone,” Lake County Detective Frank Walsh said standing in the abandoned campsite several hours later. “They split up, heading somewhere toward Kelsey Creek. There are too many places for them to run to.”

Three years after the state cut funding for its now-defunct marijuana eradication program, local law enforcement agencies backed by federal dollars continue to battle against clandestine marijuana farms that proliferate in the region’s rugged hillsides.

Read more at: Secret marijuana gardens target of eradication campaign on North Coast | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Land Use