Medical cannabis industry looks to the future

With much of the state engaged in discussion over legalization, the local medical marijuana community is taking steps to develop Southern Humboldt into what they hope will be a center for sustainable outdoor medical marijuana grows.
Medical marijuana advocates met Saturday night in Garberville to discuss creating health and safety regulations and to encourage education for sustainable growing. The panel discussion ranged from marijuana growing education at 707 Cannabis College, a newly formed institution in Garberville, to a proposed dispensary for the Southern Humboldt Community Hospital, to creating new policy around medical marijuana.
Syreeta Lux of the newly formed Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel –an organization created after a forum in March about what the marijuana industry will do if pot is legalized — said local growers have to collaborate to keep up with the rest of the industry.
She said there are growers in the Bay Area who are organizing and Humboldt should do the same.
”Regardless of what happens in the fall, we feel as a group it’s time to move forward with marketing legal marijuana,” she said.
The group is also hoping to create industry standards, work that is similar to the Bay Area-based Medical Cannabis Safety Council.
Sierra Knolle, a member the Medical Cannabis Safety Council and a Southern Humboldt resident, said the council is trying to implement a safety-based production process that
could be proposed to policymakers. The council is looking at many elements, including contaminants, water quality, sanitary practices, and industry models.The council has members who are mostly a part of the urban growing industry, and Knolle encouraged more Southern Humboldt growers to get involved so they’re opinions could be heard.
”To see the difference with the urban growers to the country growers — it’s night and day,” she said.
Michael Geci, a longtime emergency room and holistic medicine doctor from Montana, discussed the science behind medical marijuana. The founder of the Montana Botanical Analysis Lab, Geci performs tests on medical cannabis at his lab in Montana to identify potency and determine the optimal strength for individual patients.
He said medical marijuana needs to be treated like other medications. Geci said there needs to be more research on what is optimal for medication, not just an optimal high.
”There are a lot of people who don’t want to be high,” he said. “There are a lot of people who don’t want to smoke pot — people want an option.”
Montana Public Radio commentator and lobbyist Kate Cholewa talked about how to bridge the gap between the medical marijuana community and policymakers.
She encouraged advocates to reach out to representatives and remember that they are trying to create policy for a product that doesn’t fit into any existing model. Cholewa recommended reaching out to supporters of organics or environmentalists — groups that could see the value of outdoor, sustainable growing.
”We get to create this — this is a whole different way of doing politics,” Cholewa said. “We’re not trying to change something, we’re trying to create it.”