The Humboldt County Supervisory Board on Tuesday approved a $ 1 million spending plan to help cannabis growers struggling to make ends meet as the price of cannabis continues to drop.
The agenda item was presented by the county administrative office and staff working on Project Trellis, the county’s cannabis micro-grant, marketing and local equity program.
“The Humboldt County cannabis industry is at a critical point in its history,” the staff report said. “Cannabis companies, especially growers, are struggling to move from a market that has been illegal for more than 50 years to one that is heavily regulated, but legal. The successful transition of cultivators from the previously illicit market is important in Humboldt County, as the local economy is closely tied to the success of its own cannabis industry. “
Humboldt County Economic Development Director Scott Adair told council his office had been inundated with “desperate pleas for help” from cannabis growers.
“These calls for help and relief come from the recent low in the cannabis market, where the price per pound is now lower than the cost of growing, processing and distributing that product,” Adair said. “… dollars because they come from federal funding sources.”
Staff requested $ 1 million in relief funds for the Trellis project, of which $ 800,000 would be used for “a separate micro-grant program”, separate from the existing micro-grant program within the Trellis project, aimed at young people. growers who have been affected by declining cannabis prices or who have lost crops. due to fire or drought. The remaining $ 200,000 would be used for a short-term emergency marketing and advertising initiative to provide “regional market visibility for current and subsequent harvest cycles.”
Humboldt County launched a marketing initiative earlier this year to find a local non-profit organization to market the county’s cannabis industry. The application deadline was extended from June 30 to July 30, as no competing proposals were received.
“After that deadline, only one proposal (from the Humboldt Community Business Development Center) had been received,” according to the staff report. “It should be noted that the HCBDC shares board members, staff and operational resources with (the Humboldt County Growers Alliance), the author of the Marketing Assessment. In order to ensure a competitive proposal process, staff make every effort to amend and extend the (Request for Proposals) for a third and final time with a final deadline scheduled for the tender of October 22, 2021. “
Turning to questions from the board, 1st district supervisor Rex Bohn said he had received several calls from concerned growers who received grant funds through the micro-grant or equity programs but no ‘haven’t seen any payments yet.
“Are the payments coming out, is there a delay, or have they made mistakes in their requests?” They’ve already been rewarded but need more follow-up? He asked. “Explain to us how a person gets a grant, then why and when it is paid.”
“Our office has completed everything we need on our side for all but four of the 84 capital grants,” Adair explained. “The four that are still in our office are contracts on hold, we are waiting for the fellows to execute the contracts or provide the information needed to move the contract forward. There are 66 that are still waiting for requests from suppliers. Our office collaborates with external services for the processing of these once we have completed everything that is needed in our division, then they move on to the next phase of processing for payment.
Later in the meeting, 2nd District Supervisor Michelle Bushnell asked Acting County Administrative Officer Elishia Hayes to further explain what was holding the funds.
Hayes cited “a myriad of different bottlenecks,” but said the funds were awaiting approval from the auditor-comptroller’s office.
Returning to the subject of the county’s cannabis marketing, 5th District Supervisor Steve Madrone stressed the importance of selecting a local nonprofit “deeply rooted in our industry”.
“I understand the desire to see competitive proposals in terms of price and all kinds of things,” he said. “… In a few years, hopefully, with federal legalization, a lot of these things will change. Really, I think what we’re trying to do is keep things together in the meantime, to reach that finish line, so to speak. In fact, I would support a few million dollars because, frankly, if we don’t do something like that, we’re going to lose millions of dollars in tax revenue. … If we don’t spend this money, we won’t have any money to come, it’s that simple.
John Bartholomew, Humboldt County treasurer and tax collector, said his office would be prepared to accept installment payments from growers to ease the burden.
“We could also waive the penalties for a period of time until a certain date that if they pay them by then the penalties will not apply, thus giving them more time to find the necessary funds to s’ fulfill their obligations, “he said.
During public comments, several community members thanked the board for considering relief funds, but urged immediate action.
“Let’s go faster. We have to get this grant quickly so that when we say we’re going to fund your $ 10,000 for this culvert, we can do this job in the limited amount of time we have, ”said Hannah Whyte, co-owner of Emerald Queen Farms. at Willow Creek. ” Hurry up. “
Bonnie Blackberry, a resident of southern Humboldt, urged the board to cap cannabis cultivation permits.
“The big problem seems to be overproduction. Everyone agrees that this is the problem. So why the hell is Humboldt County allowing new crops when there is already a problem? ” she asked.
Madrone brought forward a motion to approve the staff recommendation, but asked to allocate the entire $ 1 million in proposed funding to the micro-grant program rather than allocate $ 200,000 for a short-term marketing initiative. .
After further discussion, Bushnell finally agreed to second the motion. The motion was carried unanimously 5-0.
Isabella Vanderheiden can be reached at 707-441-0504.