Potential marijuana grower tells Dungeness River group of water use plans

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Recreational marijuana growers should have minimal impacts on natural resources, though they definitely will not be farming, a potential grower says.

Tim Humiston on Wednesday told the Dungeness River Management Team, a group of government and community officials charged with watching over water use from the river, how much water his company, Canna Organix, likely would use if its license to grow and process recreational marijuana is approved by the state Liquor Control Board.

“Really, it’s a weed. It grows on its own. It’s not difficult,” he said.

Canna Organix is finalizing the building permit process from Clallam County for a Carlsborg facility to grow and process recreational marijuana.

Recreational marijuana was legalized under Initiative 502, approved by Washington voters in November 2012.

Once the permit process is finished, the company will be inspected by the liquor board to make sure the operation meets stringent state standards before it can get its Tier 3 producer and processor licenses.

The Tier 3 status would allow Canna Organix to grow as much as 21,000 square feet of plant canopy, which could yield about 2,604 pounds of marketable marijuana.

Humiston said the company plans to employ 20 people.

Clallam County Community Development Director Sheila Roark Miller said she has been impressed with the care taken by growers she has met to limit the resources they use to grow their crops.

“I’ve really been struck as I’ve talked to more growers,” Roark Miller said.

“They take such pride in their plants and in how they produce them.”

Humiston, who grew and analyzed marijuana production in California’s “gray” medical marijuana market from 2007 until last year, said each gram of final product needs between 0.15 and 0.69 gallons of water.

He noted that the thousands of different strains of marijuana require different levels of care.

For Canna’s crop, that would equate to about 2,233 gallons per day, less than half the 5,000 gallons daily the state allows for domestic use before requiring property owners to get water rights.

Carlsborg is within the Dungeness Water Rule area, instituted by the state Department of Ecology to ensure the Dungeness River’s flow is high enough to support both fish and people.

State and local officials are working on a special permit for marijuana growers who need to use water from the Dungeness basin.

So far, only Thomas Ash’s TropicGrow, a Tier 2 facility on Marine Drive, has received authority from the state Liquor Control Board to grow marijuana in the water rule area.

Ash was previously using water to grow such exotic plants as mangos, papayas, wasabi and vanilla in a greenhouse on his farm property.

As for waste from the plants and the fertilizers and pesticides used to grow them, Humiston said the state’s “seed-to-sale” tracking system, modeled after pharmaceutical industry tracking standards, will ensure producers dispose of byproducts in responsible ways.

“This tracking system does a really good job in not letting people skirt around the regulations,” he said.

Each plant must be tagged as a seed, and that tag follows the plant to the marketplace.

Every piece of the plant and all the chemicals used to grow them must be accounted for, all the way to final disposal.

“But there’s really not a whole lot of waste products,” Humiston said.

“We use a lot of it in other products and as fertilizer.”

That tracking system and the dozens of cameras mounted around the facility and monitored by the liquor board, he said, means marijuana production is decidedly not an agricultural activity.

“I thought it sounded like agriculture at first,” Humiston said.

“But by the end of it, I started to see it has nothing to do with agriculture.”

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 12. 2014 7:28PM
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