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US (CA): Initiative to reshape Humboldt’s cannabis industry has growers worried

Last fall, a group of disgruntled Kneeland residents arranged a meeting with Humboldt County officials at Kneeland Elementary School. The neighbors were upset because they’d recently learned that an out-of-towner planned to build a 40,000-square-foot cannabis-growing operation in a bowl-shaped valley near their properties. In fact, the grow op’s hoop houses would be plainly visible from some of their own homes atop Barry Ridge, a 2,660-foot-tall peak from which, on a clear day, you can look down and see Freshwater five miles below, and beyond that, Arcata Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

One of the neighbors, retired U.C. Davis professor Mark Thurmond, told the Outpost that somewhere around 100 people attended the meeting, including First District Supervisor Rex Bohn, Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson, and Planning and Building Director John Ford. 

The neighbors wanted answers. “We were all pretty upset,” Thurmond said. They’d learned that the applicant planned to drill for water, which they saw as a threat to their own water supplies. They were also worried about increased traffic, noise, environmental impacts, and unsavory characters — like the “quite well-armed” Bulgarians who Thurmond said ran an illicit grow in the area.

The neighbors wanted to know why only one among them had been notified about the application. (The answer: geographic proximity.) They wanted to know why county staff wasn’t doing more to crack down on permit violations, and when Ford said planning staff was often busy processing cannabis applications, it didn’t go over well. “Everyone shouted almost simultaneously, ‘Then stop the permits!’” Thurmond recalled.

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