Marijuana producers and collectives aren’t the only ones with a financial stake in how the plant is regulated. As cannabis becomes a bigger and bigger industry, states and municipalities are becoming more and more dependent on the tax money.
In 2011, over a quarter of Humboldt County’s $1.6 billion economy came from cannabis, according to report cited in Next City. That percentage has almost surely increased, probably by a lot, in the intervening years. And the likely advent of legalization in 2016 would signal a new flash flood of weed cash coming over those green Northern California hills.
That’s why an Emerald Triangle city like Arcata, California has got to figure out how keep making that money efficiently while rustling as few feathers as possible. Thus, the city council passed a measure to establish a “Medical Marijuana Innovation Zone” in May. It would be, according to Arcata authorities, the first ever government-zoned cannabis production area in our country’s history.
Once the zoning goes fully into effect, it would up-end some large grows in private residences, but it would make the business much easier to regulate and less likely to offend neighbors.
“The trial of this first site will be to control the smells,” Arcata City Council Member Susan Ornelas told Next City. “We’ve all associated that smell with illegal activity for 70-something years.” Odor has been a major problem for other municipalities with medical and recreational marijuana, eliciting complaints and lawsuits from neighbors.
City-zoning also puts regulation in the hands of the local community. “I think it’s the only thing [cities can do to regulate marijuana],” says Arcata area attorney and NORML advisor Mark Harris. “Court case after court case established that these larger decisions about legality relate to the state, but in terms of land use … health and safety and public good relate to the local jurisdictions.”
The city has settled on the site of an abandoned lumber factory in the industrial outskirts of now for the historic zone. The plan is to expand it to several other properties in the area in order to keep the zone from being “undemocratic” and in the hands of a single landlord. If all goes according to plan, the zone will be up and running in six months.