ARCATA - We discussed in part one how the proposed medical marijuana innovation zone in Arcata could offer medical marijuana entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop and manufacture products. City officials also weighed in on community concerns. Now we’ll touch on local economic inefficiencies with medical marijuana products, testing, regulations, and a possible issue with a newly adopted area.
The medical marijuana innovation zone is anticipated to bring new life to the former Humboldt Flakeboard Plant in Arcata, with an emphasis on innovation.
"Innovation is that it could go out into a lot of other things that are possible. When we first started HPRC in 1999 we just had the bud and now we have 500 different products in here," said Mariellen Jurkovich, Director of the Humboldt Patient Resource Center.
There's currently economic inefficiency with some of these products, since local edible artisans cannot legitimately rent commercial kitchens to produce medical marijuana products. So raw materials from Humboldt County are shipped down to San Francisco, processed into edibles, and then shipped back to Humboldt County.
"When it should be closer to the point of origin,” said Bryan Willkomm, HPRC General Manager. “It's going to lower the carbon footprint by having less transportation involved. And we could be like Mariellen said, involved in innovation around these products. Why are we sending these products out to the bay? When we have so many great thinkers in this area."
Another option for the innovation zone is a testing lab, since it too is done out of the county.
Willkomm says, "We send it off to two separate laboratories. One in Santa Cruz and one in Santa Rosa since there is no local laboratory that is doing full spectrum analytical testing of cannabis.”
The Humboldt Patient Resource Center in Arcata is a patient collective. Meaning patients provide the center with their excess harvest, which is tested for quality.
"We don't really know what's in some of the products here. So do we know are there heavy metals, are there certain kinds of pesticides,” said Jim Wood, District 2 Assemblymember. “There could be a lot of things in the actual product itself that we need to monitor. So if you're operating a dispensary you want to be able to make sure the medicine you're prescribing for patients is actually safe."
Willkomm says, "These are very expensive tests and we duplicate the testing to ensure that we are getting two clear screenings versus just one screening, in case there was an error in the processing of that lab."
There's a demand for the zone and because of that, when it was proposed to redevelop the flakeboard plant, other industrial property owners saw the value and they too wanted to be included.
"We have people who very badly want to be into this area and are even bringing up the possibility of legal action if they're not included," said Arcata Mayor, Michael Winkler.
"I think we took a simplistic look at it without thinking that there would be tons of other people wanting in and now it's a different picture. To me most everybody wants in," said Paul Pitino, Arcata Vice Mayor.
City council received letters from attorneys questioning compliance, the Environmental Quality Act, the Brown Act and alleging that adopting only certain areas would be unfair and discriminatory. Council negotiated and approved adding Area C to the MMIZ. Those plans are being drafted.
"We're trying to get these done as soon as we can so that we can help out businesses but at the same time we have to properly analyze it because there are these threats of litigation and other things that we have to deal with," said Larry Oetker, Arcata Community Development Director.
Other things, a preschool that has existed over 20 years is near Area C and the school’s director is concerned with it affecting safety and enrollment.
"How are parents going to feel about enrolling their child in a marijuana innovation zone," said Kathy Montagne, North Coast Children’s Services Executive Director.
Most states have a 500 to 1000 foot buffer zone around schools and childcare programs.
"You couldn't locate a public school with that type of operation nearby. Just like you can't sell alcohol or cigarettes close to a school campus as well," Montagne said.
City officials say regulations will help curtail possible negative effects.
"The city wants to have very strict regulations on odor control, noise control, screening these facilities off from other sensitive facilities or other people within that area," Winkler said.
"So internally we have the standards drafted and they were designed to 100% correlate with the state standard," Oetker said.
The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, passed last month and expected to go into effect in 2018, will establish a statewide regulatory scheme requiring both state and local licenses, inventory tracking, testing, product labeling and penalties for noncompliance while allowing local control.
"The League of California Cities worked hard with all these legislatures in the process because one size is not going to fit all,” said Arcata City Councilmember, Mark Wheetley. "So one of the provisions that we insisted on is that there be elements of local control because what works in L.A. is not necessarily going to work in Arcata."
City officials also encourage research in the zone. With the open mind that Humboldt State University could possibly produce the future academics around the medical cannabis industry.
By: Sierra Jenkins