Jackee Riccio, Cannabis for Conservation

My name is Jackee Riccio, and I am the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Cannabis for Conservation. Cannabis for Conservation incorporated in 2018, and was the first 501(c)(3) environmental cannabis nonprofit in the industry. Our organization was founded to bring conservation practices and partnerships to cannabis farmers through a non-regulatory lens, and to increase industry access to ecological tools and resources. I’m here today as both a scientist and a steward, and I have a profound sense of responsibility to this land that I call home, and that many of our farmers here in the Emerald Triangle have called home for generations, and I feel that it is in jeopardy because of over-taxation of cannabis, including taxation from Measure S.

Humboldt has made great strides towards remediation and resource conservation through the cannabis licensing program. We have begun improving rural roads that add sediment to watercourses, and we have greatly reduced surface water diversions and facilitated a shift to seasonal water storage, both of which help protect water quality for aquatic life. We have amended Measure S to allow for fields to lay fallow to encourage natural nutrient cycling and the accumulation of soil organic matter, both of which are critical to carbon sequestration and reduced soil erosion. We have incorporated conservation practices and mitigation for declining species that use habitat on and around cannabis farms, and have received state funding to continue converting generator-powered farms to solar-powered farms, effectively reducing fossil fuels. It is critical that these remediation and restoration efforts continue, as Humboldt is part of the broader Klamath bioregion, and is a global biodiversity hotspot, making it an area of conservation priority.

But the remediation and restoration work required by the licensing process and offered through grant programs are dependent upon valid cultivation permits. If farmers cannot pay their taxes, including Measure S, their permits will be invalidated. Farmers without valid permits won’t have the funding to continue their required remediation and environmental improvements because they won’t have cultivation income. Furthermore, they will be ineligible for the restoration and environmental improvement monies through state and county programs, as they are only available to permitted farmers. Valid permits are a requirement for continued restoration, and they hinge on a farmer’s ability to pay taxes, which is extremely challenging in this depressed market.

CA has joined the 30 x 30 initiative, where 30% of lands and coastal waters will be conserved to safeguard biodiversity and store carbon in the face of climate change. 30 x 30 explicitly states the criticality of conservation on working lands and community connection to land. Over 60% of the land in Humboldt is privately owned, and some estimates show up to one-third have cultivation of some sort occurring onsite. So, why then, instead of bleeding farmers financially dry, are we not ensuring that they can flourish through the regulatory process, and form lasting conservation and remediation partnerships around the common value of stewardship? Why are we threatening that opportunity and the conservation goals of the state with over-taxation?

We have been cleaning up the historic degradation, unsustainable extraction, and exploitation of Humboldt’s natural resources for decades now. Over-taxing our growers and threatening the validity of their permits is antithetical to that effort, and is an insult to the years of work and collaboration that has gone into creating pathways for farms to be environmentally compliant. So, I’m asking the Humboldt County BOS for Measure S to be suspended and for county tax reform for the better of my community, so that we can continue to have the opportunity to remediate, share values of stewardship, to collaborate, to teach, and to elevate Humboldt’s conservation and restoration work in a way that the national industry can follow.