A trade organization representing hundreds of small cannabis farmers in Mendocino County asked for “urgent intervention” by the state to save their marijuana cultivation permits, in a letter sent to California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the director of the state Department of Cannabis Control.
The letter, dated Feb. 8 and penned by the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance (MCA), asserted that Mendocino County officials have spun their wheels for years in an ineffective attempt at standing up a local cannabis licensing program that jibes with all state requirements.
02-08-2023 MCA Requesting Urgent Intervention to Prevent Mendocino Licensing Collapse
“Mendocino’s cannabis program has reached a breaking point,” the letter reads, and reports that only six out of 841 farmers – less than 1% – have been able to obtain full annual state cultivation permits, largely due to local licensing dysfunction.
For years, much of the state’s legal cannabis companies have been operating on “provisional” permits that don’t require full compliance with state environmental regulations and other rules, but that temporary transition phase is coming to an end this July.
The MCA letter warns that unless something drastically changes, county officials only expect 256 of the farms to transition to full licensure by a state-imposed deadline of July 1.
“If this estimate were accurate, it would suggest that approximately 75% of cultivators who entered the permitting process in good faith beginning in 2017 will be unable to obtain a state license,” the letter reads. “While we believe this estimate is unacceptable, we also unfortunately believe that it is optimistic in light of the program’s current trajectory.”
But the MCA said it’s skeptical even the 256 will survive and keep their licenses, due to a reported staffing shortfall at the county level.
The 16-page letter outlines a series of years-long problems at the county level, and notes that by comparison, 62% of farmers in Humboldt and 23% in Trinity Counties – which along with Mendocino comprise the famed cannabis producing region the Emerald Triangle – have obtained full annual cultivation permits.
The letter asks the governor, the DCC, and the legislature to intervene in Mendocino County, but doesn’t make any specific policy requests.
“The role of local government in processing applications must be addressed at the state level in order to provide good-faith operators with a path forward,” the letter reads.
To date, however, no response has been received from the governor’s office or the DCC, said Michael Katz, the executive director of the MCA. Katz said if nothing changes, then potentially hundreds of farmers will lose their ability to grow cannabis legally, and that will have economic ripple effects.
“It’s a community-wide socioeconomic collapse we’re headed for, if we can’t provide support to help the small-batch operators weather this downturn,” Katz said. “What we need foundationally is for these farmers to not have to worry every 15 minutes that they’re going to lose their license and have some stability … to weather the market conditions.”
The Mendocino County Cannabis Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.