Project Trellis’s three tiers. Photo credit: GoHumCo.com.
In a twist of fate that would make Nancy Reagan roll in her grave, Humboldt County is giving back to cannabis cultivators once persecuted for their craft with the Project Trellis’ Local Equity Program (LEP).
The LEP is one of three facets of Project Trellis. The project also includes micro-grant and marketing programs. Humboldt County officials created Project Trellis to support the county’s larger-than-life cannabis industry — an industry plagued by government persecution for decades as the U.S. fought it’s trivial War on Drugs.
According to the 2019 Humboldt County Cannabis Equity Assessment, the criminalization of cannabis has hit the county hard since the 1970s. For example, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) targeted growers in the region unlike any other in the U.S. CAMP featured military-style raids complete with helicopters and heavily-armed SWAT teams.
A Cannabis-Centric Equity Program
California Cannabis Equity Grants helped to fund the LEP. Specifically, state officials have allotted three rounds of funds to the program so far. Per state guidelines, the funds must go towards assisting those negatively impacted by cannabis criminalization, according to Scott Adair, the division director for Humboldt County’s Economic Development department.
The program has multiple phases. For V1.0, county officials dedicated over $1.2 million to local equity applicants and licensees. V2.0 will see approximately $2 million directed towards services for local equity applicants and licensees, according to Peggy Murphy, an economic development specialist with the county.
Adair said that a possible third round of funding is also in the works. Though, the exact details are still up in the air.
The first award from the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) totals $1.33 million. The second and third awards are both from the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). Those include a $2.4 million and $1.05 million grant, respectively, according to Humboldt County’s website.
Those funds provide assistance to a wide range of eligible applicants, from small-scale growers — individuals who run grow operations less than 10,000 square feet — to individuals who experienced sexual assault, exploitation, domestic violence and/or human trafficking while participating in the cannabis industry.
“Some people don’t realize, because Humboldt County was for a long time where [cannabis] was being grown and cultivated, then distributed in the inner cities,” Adair explained to Emerald. “There was a huge issue of sexual assault and exploitation here.”
“Women were being brought in to trim and process the cannabis. But because it was illegal they weren’t able to rely on law enforcement when they were experiencing abuse in these work situations and so they were taken advantage of,” he said.
Unique to Humboldt County
Humboldt County’s LEP is different from other cannabis equity programs in the U.S. It focuses on supporting legacy operators — or those in the industry before legalization. The roots of this divergence lie in Humboldt County’s unique history — which saw growers in the significantly white county as the primary target of government scrutiny amidst the War on Drugs, according to Adair.
“We don’t discount the impacts to persons of color in other urban or higher density populated areas, we understand that. We were just impacted in a different way. It was still a significant impact, just different,” he said. “They were living in the hills, in cabins without electricity, without running water, and trying to hide their cannabis grows to support their families and support their livelihood.”
In addition to small-scale or legacy growers, Humboldt County’s LEP also extends to people of color, those who fall below the poverty line — which is almost 20% of the county, according to the latest census — and more.
The Diverse Pool of Applicants
The LEP aims to provide assistance for a vast array of applicants, as laid out in the program’s manual.
According to Adair, the application restrictions ensure that funds go to those who can most benefit from the assistance.
“Our equity program takes into account […] if they’re rich, white-privileged, legacy growers. Our program is not designed to go to individuals who have acres and acres of cannabis and who are profiting and prospering,” he said.
All applicants must have been affected in some way by the criminalization of cannabis. Some of the qualified applicants include any woman; person of color; or LGBTQ individual who has worked in, or currently works in the cannabis industry in Humboldt County.
Others include individuals who previously or currently work in Humboldt’s cannabis industry that were arrested and/or convicted on a non-violent cannabis-related offense. This extends to those who were subject to asset forfeiture arising from a cannabis-related event.
Individuals who have become homeless or lost housing a result of “marijauna enforcement” are also eligible to apply.
Alternatively, anyone who doesn’t meet the qualifications listed in the manual can become eligible for the Humboldt County LEP if they meet certain conditions.
These conditions include but are not limited to: having resided in Humboldt County for at least five years between 1971-2016; having a parent, sibling or child arrested for a cannabis-related offense; or having a household income below the California poverty level.
Adair said that the first round of applications saw over 100 applicants. He expects this number to increase in the second phase of funding.
The services outlined in the LEP manual dictate that eligible equity applicants may qualify for a maximum of $10,000 per service item. Much like the list of eligible applicants, the list of equity services available is also quite inclusive.
As outlined in the program manual, services and grants may include technical assistance for the formation of cannabis cooperative associations and employment skill training for participants employed or seeking employment in licensed cannabis operations in Humboldt County.
The program also offer grants for purposes of assuring compliance with regulatory requirements of local or state permits. The manual mentions items such as water storage for irrigation during forbearance periods and installation of solar electrical systems for off-grid cannabis facilities.
Officials encourage prospective applicants to check out the entire list of services available on the County’s Notice of Funding Availability.
How to Apply
The county currently accepts three types of application submissions.
The preferred method is an online submission, which applicants can find on the Project Trellis website. Individuals can also submit applicants through email, by sending a completed application to Peggy Murphy at email@example.com.
Hard copy applications are also available upon request. Individuals can call (707) 599-0125 for more information. Applicants must mail or deliver the applications to the County’s Economic Development office, Attn: Peggy Murphy, 520 E St. Eureka, CA 95501.
The application window for V1.0 closed at 5 p.m. PST on Friday, March 19th. Officials will open the window for V2.0 applications in July.