The wheels of justice grind on slowly in the class action lawsuit against the county’s cannabis abatement program. Thomas v County of Humboldt is inching its way through the appeals process after being dismissed in the trial court May 12. The Institute for Justice, representing plaintiffs Corrine and Doug Thomas, Rhonda Olson, Cyro Glad and Blu Graham, on behalf of the class, filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit on September 21. On November 22, the county’s law firm Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley, PC, struck back with an 84 page responsive brief 13,547 words long.

The lawsuit was initially brought by The Institute for Justice (IJ) in October last year in response to Humboldt County’s cannabis abatement program, which saw several property owners (like the plaintiffs) noticed for alleged cannabis related violations via satellite and in some cases, tasked to remediate and/or pay thousands to hundreds of thousands to demolish structures because of previous owners’ actions.

A couple years after the legalization of cannabis in California, Humboldt County’s enforcement for cultivation and related violations including; grading, streamside management area development, and unpermitted structures with a “nexus to cannabis,” began occurring much more frequently, and with penalty amounts that now range from $6,000-10,000 per day, per violation. The penalties add up quickly — sometimes leading to notices threatening millions in fines and thousands in costs to bring the property up to pre-cannabis condition. “Pre cannabis condition” often entails tasks such as remediating logging legacies, replacing culverts, removing soil or capping soil that has perlite in order to prevent run-off, removing all legacy cultivation and materials that reside anywhere within 150 feet from Class C (seasonally dry) streams like planter pots and plastic, permitting structures that have existed for generations, or obtaining Agricultural- exempt permits for simple PVC pipe hoop houses, registering water use, and more.