After years of struggle, Mendocino cannabis farmers finally have something to celebrate. 

And while advocates have searched for solutions for years, it would all end up coming down to a few short months leading to the progress that started with a desperate plea from farmers to Sacramento via a letter in February highlighting the perils of being a farmer in Mendo. 

For anyone that loves cannabis, hearing these tales from legacy cultivators who did their best to transition to the legal market that never protected them like it was intended to is heartbreaking. While there is plenty of healthy debate on whether poor regulations or mega farms destroyed the economy of The Emerald Triangle, nobody would argue against the idea they were both factors. 

Sacramento heard the call. A month later on March 14, the Senate Business and Professions Committee would hold a daylong seminar. The next day the state sent a letter to Mendo saying it was prepared to offer support. These conversations lasted through a few weeks ago when a set of reforms included the streamlining of the ordinance, revision of the grants program, and a bunch of other tweaks to make life easier. 

The Mendocino Cannabis Alliance is thrilled about the progress. 

“So between those things and the tax reform that passed at the end of March, really we’ve seen a wholesale shift at the county level about how our regulated operators are being approached and being managed, and how this program has gone from complete bottlenecks and major concerns about people not having a pathway to annual licensure. We now feel that there is a pathway and it’s with the help of the state and the county,” MCA Executive Director Michael Katz told L.A. Weekly. “Certainly for us Origins Council at the state level, working with the regulators and legislators to help us get these messages out there and coordinate a response has been invaluable.”

Katz believes the community has been able to take a lot of positivity out of the last few months. It’s proven that even when things are seemingly at their worst, the community can still rally together to create change. Especially when it may have seemed like their concerns were not being heard until they got more aggressive with the letter in February. 

“We were really lucky that the state was listening,” Katz said. “And the attention that came drove the county to make some major changes, obviously the director of the department resigned, and since that happened, it’s been made clear through the administration of the department that there’s now a lot of these things that were identified as required, were things that were really blocking up the works, are actually not in fact required, and we’re seeing significant response time improvements.”

Katz argues there is just an all-around better sense of mission for Mendocino regulators. He means that in the most literal way. Advocates had been calling for the department to have a mission statement for years and the new regime had one written with some input from stakeholders within a month.

Katz went on to note this victory does not bring back the people who have already been forced out of the market because of all of these onerous regulations and the tax burdens 

“This is a victory for the people who have made it this far, but so many people have been lost through this process. And we, you know, we lament that fact every day, and we’re still committed to fighting and working towards an environment that is as accessible as possible for the regulated market,” Katz said.

After years of pushing for these reforms, we asked if the county changing directors or the state getting involved played a bigger role in getting to this moment. Katz emphasized he truly believed it was the 16-page letter with its 40 citations that pushed things over the line. 

MCA’s next plan is to focus on the implementation of everything that got passed before going back to pushing the other tweaks they would like to see to make farmers’ lives easier.