Commercial Cannabis Permitting Guidance

Commercial Cannabis Permitting Guidance

Applications for commercial cannabis planning permits are referred to and reviewed by the Division of Environmental Health (DEH) for compliance with regulations intended to protect public health and the environment. Individuals preparing a commercial cannabis planning permit application are encouraged to review the guidance below and provide information, as applicable, to the Planning Department to assist DEH with a timely review of their permit application.

Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Permitting Guidance

Septic systems are referred to as Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS). Non-seasonal cultivation, on-site processing, manufacturing, and extraction activities must be accommodated by permitted OWTS if community sewer services are unavailable to the operations. Individuals seeking an OWTS permit from DEH must submit an application to the Planning and Building Department. The application will be forwarded to DEH for review while the Planning and Building Department conducts its project review.

Site evaluations are required for all OWTS proposals to ensure proper OWTS design and compliance with site suitability criteria. Humboldt County OWTS regulations require site evaluations to be conducted by a Qualified Professional as defined in Humboldt County Code § 611.2(m): Registered Civil Engineer, Environmental Health Specialist, Professional Geologist, or Certified Soil Scientist who has experience designing standard or non‐standard wastewater treatment systems. For more information regarding OWTS siting and design requirements, please contact DEH Land Use staff at (707) 445-6215 and/or review Humboldt County’s OWTS Regulations and Technical Manual using the link below.

Humboldt County OWTS Regulations and Technical Manual

Water Well Permitting Guidance

Water Wells intended as a water source for commercial cannabis operations must be supported by documentation that either establishes permitting history or verifies legal non-conforming status for the well. As of February 19, 1973, permits are required for all wells constructed, altered, or destroyed in Humboldt County. Water wells constructed prior to February 19, 1973 are considered legal non-conforming and do not require a permit.

California Water Well Standards and Humboldt County Code requires all water well construction activity to be performed by a contractor holding a C-57 well driller’s license. Individuals seeking a water well permit are encouraged to consult with a licensed well driller and submit a permit application to DEH for review. For proposed well construction, DEH will inspect the well location prior to drilling, observe the sanitary seal around the well casing during construction, and issue the final permit approval once it can be verified that work was completed in accordance with state and county regulation. A permit cannot be issued for well construction that was performed without prior DEH review until sufficient evidence is provided that the existing water well possesses or can be modified to possess an adequate sanitary seal. This may be possible by obtaining the driller’s Well Completion Report or by over-boring and retrofitting the well with an adequate seal. For more information regarding water well siting and permitting requirements, please contact DEH Land Use staff at (707) 445-6215.

Water Production Guidance

Minimum required water supply for commercial, institutional, and industrial facilities is determined by a licensed civil or mechanical engineer and accepted by the County Planning Department during project review. All water production tests must be conducted during the dry season and be representative of the lowest annual water production anticipated from the source. The dry season testing period is August 1 through September 30. Water production tests for springs and streams must be conducted by a Licensed Well Driller, Licensed Land Surveyor, Registered Civil Engineer, Registered Geologist, or Registered Environmental Health Specialist. Water production tests for wells must be conducted by a Licensed Well Driller, Registered Civil Engineer, or Registered Geologist.

Although DEH does not assess the water quantity requirements for commercial operations, this office has developed a Water Production Standards and Test Procedures document detailing domestic water quantity requirements which may be useful to review. For more information regarding water production, please contact DEH Land Use staff at (707) 445-6215 and/or review DEH’s Water Production Standards and Test Procedures document using the link below.

Water Production Standards and Test Procedures

Hazardous Materials and Hazardous Waste Handling and Disposal

Businesses in Humboldt County storing or handling certain quantities of hazardous materials, or generating any amount of hazardous waste, are regulated by the Division of Environmental Health (DEH).  To be in compliance with the law, your business may be required to submit inventories for those materials, document emergency and training procedures, maintain hazardous waste disposal records, obtain an EPA generator ID number and be subject to site inspections.

What is a Hazardous Material?
A hazardous material is any material that poses a significant hazard to human health, safety or the environment, such as substances that are flammable, corrosive, reactive, oxidizing, combustible, toxic or radioactive.  Hazardous materials commonly found in cannabis-related activity include, but are not limited to:   fertilizers, soil amendments (such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium), rodenticides, herbicides, fungicides, pesticides and insecticides (including organic ones), as well as fuel used onsite for power generators and/or heating elements (e.g., diesel, gasoline, propane, kerosene, butane and oils).  There may also be cleaners and sanitizers (such as household chemicals, solvents, bleach, alcohol or ammonia) and compressed gasses (including propane, oxygen, acetylene, nitrogen and carbon dioxide).

What is a Hazardous Waste?
Hazardous wastes are often the leftover or spent hazardous materials that require disposal.  At cannabis cultivation facilities, for example, these will often include, but are not limited to:  spent or leftover materials as listed above; the used oil, fuel and oil filters generated when equipment maintenance is done onsite; waste pesticides; waste solvents and laboratory wastes from any cannabis processing or quality assurance testing; sludge from solvent recovery tanks; used batteries; used absorbent from spills; and fluorescent bulbs or other bulbs with mercury.

Review Humboldt County’s Hazardous Materials Unit information using the link below.

Humboldt County’s Hazardous Materials Unit 

Solid Waste Handling and Disposal

Managing cannabis plant and cannabis product waste

Waste, other than cannabis plant or cannabis product waste that results from a cannabis operation (garbage, sheeting, tubing, containers, plastic, paper, wood, metal, glass, concrete etc.) is solid waste. Left to accumulate, it creates blight, litter, odors, attracts pests and creates a nuisance. It must be transported regularly, per Humboldt County Code, to a regulated, attended solid waste site for proper disposal. To bury, burn, deposit or otherwise dispose of such waste is illegal.

Grow medium that is no longer suitable for cannabis cultivation can and should be reused for other agricultural purposes. If it is no longer useful for any agricultural purpose, it must be handled as solid waste, transported to a regulated, attended solid waste site for later transport to a landfill. For temporary storage, ensure the grow medium is secured against rain and runoff so that pollutants do not leach into surface or groundwater.