You may have read recently that the County, in a not-so-shocking-but-ridiculously-stupid maneuver, opted to completely ignore the terms of a settlement agreement they reached with HUMMAP over the Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance.
HUMMAP’s complaint is that the County decided to re-open the door to applications for pre-existing and continuing marijuana operations after originally shutting it down after August 23rd. It should be note, of course, that the County’s own ordinance contains language that specifically forbids that. The ordinance forbids the County from accepting those applications 180 days after the ordinance takes effect.
So what gives?
As LoCO and the County peg it (we didn’t do the math ourselves), that 180 day cut-off was August 23rd of this year. It’s important to note that, yes, the County said multiple times that August 23rd was the day. And they said it loudly to all who would listen.
What changed? Well, it depends on your perspective. Some more indulgent (a.k.a. naive) individuals might assume the County realized a mistake with conflicting language and just went with the easier one. Or one could assume – and with good cause – that the Planning Dept. is filled with a bunch of f*cktards that can’t read. After all, the legal requirements that they are violating are set down in plain black and white.
But if you’ve been paying attention to Humboldt’s Planning and Building Department for the last, say, 20 years, you’d know that this is continuing a disturbing trend in which County staff just do whatever the hell they want without regard for proper public process or written law. Over and over and over they do this.
If you were to read Section 22.214.171.124 of the Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance, you’d find this cut and dried passage concerning applications for existing/ongoing marijuana operations:
“All operators of existing cultivation sites seeking recognition of cultivation activities that occurred on or before January 1, 2016, for purposes of obtaining a Zoning Clearance Certificate or discretionary permit for ongoing commercial cannabis cultivation for medical use pursuant to the CMMLUO shall register with the County of Humboldt Department of Planning & Building within 180 days of the effective date of this ordinance.”
We’ve said before that a moratorium on new pot permits is critical, for a lot of reasons. (Read more about that below.) Of particular note is that the County was legally obligated to do so by virtue of their settlement with HUMMAP. As you may recall, the County has a really frickin’ bad record when it comes to lawsuits and the like – Lawsuits: County 0, Everyone Else 103 (with pictures!)
For cryin’ out loud, the County settled a suit with HUMMAP (who by all accounts had zero money to back up their suit), and then released a statement saying that nothing about the ordinance was going to change. Seriously!
So why are they screwing with a legal settlement they came to? They sure seem to love losing. More to the point, however, is the question of why the Supervisors are allowing Planning staff to run rough-shod over agreements made with outside parties and to creatively “re-interpret” legal language at will. Why have Supervisors at all if they just allow staff to do whatever the hell they want?
Not to mention that changing the cut-off date – which should require changing the language of the ordinance itself – is something that should been done via a publicly-noticed meeting. You have to vote when you change laws; you do not just get to allow your willful and subversive staff to force the changes they want on people.
Someone needs to reign the planning staff in, and hopefully whoever is brave/stupid enough to take on the job of Planning Director will have the cajones to put their foot down. If not, the Planning department’s policy “decisions” will continue to harm the County financially, and will also continue to let rampant marijuana cultivation harm the denizens and environment of Humboldt.