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Pot Legalization Arrives

The state’s roll-out of Proposition 64 adult use marijuana legalization is in a transitional phase where local approvals are used as a basis for temporary state permitting.

At this point, only two Humboldt County dispensaries – EcoCann in Eureka and The Humboldt County Collective in Myrtletown – have been issued temporary state licenses for retail sales of adult use recreational cannabis under a system that began implementation on New Year’s Day.

The temporary permits are valid for 120 days, giving their recipients time to gain annual licenses. The system will fully transition to annual permitting by July 1.

The state’s licensing system agency is the Bureau of Cannabis Control. Alex Traverso, the bureau’s Chief of Communications, said the process is based on local control and businesses such as dispensaries that have been in operation need to demonstrate that they’re in compliance with local regulations.

New businesses also need to show that they’ll be in compliance locally and Traverso said that with those assurances, the state can process permit applications efficiently.

“The process actually moves pretty quickly,” he said, adding that “the main thing (applicants) need to show to the state is local approval.”

In the months ahead, more thorough reviews will be done. “It works well in  both ways – it gives people time to get into the regulated market, to continue to get up and running, and then  gives the state some time to do a full vetting of their application and their background,” said Traverso.

As of last week, the state had issued about 500 temporary licenses and had about 1,500 applications pending with more flowing in daily. Traverso said that with demonstration of local approval, processing has been efficient and approvals have been done “in as little as a couple of days.”

On the Humboldt County government level, a commercial production ordinance that went into effect almost two years ago is in the process of being revised. The new ordinance is expected to be considered for approval by the Humboldt Board of Supervisors in February but compliance with the county’s existing ordinances will enable state licensing.

Humboldt County has permitted over 100 cannabis businesses under its commercial production ordinance so far.

Some cannabis businesses have ceased operation until state permits are approved. In Arcata, two medical dispensaries closed on January 1 pending state permitting.

But one of them, Humboldt Patient Resource Center, re-opened for medical sales on Jan. 6 and announced on its website that recreational use clearance is imminent.

In Southern Humboldt, the Garberville-based Wonderland Nursery continued its medical sales of clones and flowers uninterrupted.

Kevin Jodrey, Wonderland’s founder, has almost ten years of local experience in the cannabis industry, having previously worked as the cultivation manager at Arcata’s Humboldt Patient Resource Center.

He said that in unincorporated areas, compliance with county ordinances will define legality until the state system fully kicks in.

“What I know is, if I listen to Humboldt County first and then I listen to the state second – until I get the state permit – then I’m compliance,” Jodrey continued. “Because Humboldt County’s dictating what we’re doing here and then the state will dictate what we do next.”

Jodrey said July 1 is “the real date that will clearly define who is operating and who is not” as the state transitions out of interim licensing.

Bob Russell, the deputy director of the Humboldt County’s Planning and Building Department, said the Bureau of Cannabis Control is in contact with the county as license applications are processed and the county is “receiving a good number of referral requests from the state.”

He added, “Our lines of communication are open and are working very well.”

The end of last week saw a development that’s been described as a threat to the industry. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama administration memo discouraging prosecution actions in states with legalization laws.

Days earlier, on January 1, an upbeat atmosphere prevailed at the Eureka-based EcoCann, the first dispensary in Humboldt County to offer recreational adult use sales. Asked about speculation that Sessions will direct a cannabis crackdown, EcoCann owner Jeff Poel was unfazed.

“Jeff Sessions is going to be in f—king prison for lying to Congress, as we all know – that piece of s—t,” he said. “He’s never going to win and the reason is, 38 states have this stuff legal now and what does the GOP care about? Money.”

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