Meet Liza Welsh 4th Ward Candidate Eureka

Liza Welsh

Eureka 4th Ward

Do you support the growth of cannabis industries in your city? Please explain specific policies that you support or oppose.

I support the growth of cannabis industries in Eureka. Cannabis is an integral part of Eureka's past, present, and future. As the largest city in the Emerald Triangle, Eureka is well poised to be a center for cannabis business activity, especially for cannabis support facilities and ancillary businesses. I would like to see Eureka continue to tax cannabis companies at the same rate as other businesses, and I would like to see Eureka promote itself as a city that is friendly to cannabis businesses and cannabis tourism. Further, I support cannabis equity programs and micro-grant programs that ensure that the people who were most affected by the war on drugs, especially people who farmed and sold cannabis under prohibition, are not left behind in the legal marketplace.

Are there segments of the cannabis supply chain—cultivation, manufacturing, testing, distribution, retail—that you want to see more of, or less of, in your city? Explain.

I want to see the expansion of cannabis support facilities in Eureka, especially of testing, manufacturing, and distribution. I would also like to see ancillary support services, cannabis technology, and cannabis lifestyle brands bring much-needed jobs and revenue to the City. I would like to see social spaces that are permitted for onsite consumption where the community can come together and can sample cannabis grown right here in Humboldt County. Further, I would like to see more cannabis companies choose to not only have branches in Eureka, but to headquarter here. With relatively affordable housing (compared to other parts of California), a vibrant arts community, access to outdoor recreation, and close proximity to farms producing the best cannabis in the world, Eureka is an ideal spot for lovers of cannabis to live, work, and play.

What positions did you take on cannabis, if any, during the war on drugs…think 1970 into the 21st Century? Have those views evolved over time, how and when?

l held a cannabis medical card under Prop 215. While attending Mills College in Oakland, CA, I worked at a hydroponic supply store and I was on the board of our chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). Later, I worked for the James Anthony Law Group, a legal firm representing cannabis businesses, as a Policy Analyst and Permit Application Writer. I also worked with The Hood Incubator, an Oakland-based organization promoting black ownership in the legal cannabis industry.

After finishing my Master's of Public Policy degree, I moved to Eureka to be closer to my family in Humboldt County. I accepted a position as a Land Use Planner with the Humboldt County Planning and Building Department. As a Planner, I work with hundreds of cannabis farmers and business owners who are seeking permits from the County of Humboldt. I help our applicants to complete their application packets and to develop successful projects that will comply with local and State law, and I represent their projects at public hearings. I have guided over 60 applicants through this process and to the point of receiving a permit. As a County Planner, I have advocated for our Department to hire additional staff to process permits and for the County to adapt policies that will help small farmers. I am pleased that our Small Farmer’s Amendments Ordinance was approved by the Planning Commission and will be heard by the Board of Supervisors soon.

Although I supported Prop 64 because it would free imprisoned people and expunge sentences, I acknowledge that implementation has been cumbersome and challenging, especially for small businesses. I am concerned about equal representation for people of color and for Humboldt's legacy cannabis farmers within the legal and regulated market. Our small farmers are our heritage. They are our family, friends, and community members. We cannot leave them behind!

What do you know about the dozens of cannabis businesses that have located in your city since 2016? How many businesses are there? How many jobs? How much paid in permits and fees?

I reached out to the Economic Development Manager of the City of Eureka and I learned that Eureka has approximately 70 operational cannabis businesses. The majority of these are support facilities, especially manufacturers and distributors. These businesses represent at least 200 jobs, and possibly more. The license fees range from $1,500 per year to $9,000 per year, depending on the license type. Eureka does not have an excise tax for cannabis businesses.

Do you support a city-based excise tax on cannabis? If so, under what circumstances, on which activities, how much and on what basis (sales, square footage, etc)?

As I discussed above, I feel that the cannabis industry is already over-burdened by taxes. I think that Eureka should continue to tax cannabis companies at the same rate as other businesses and should advertise that fact so that we can encourage more cannabis companies to establish and headquarter here.

How would you make resources more available to cannabis businesses since they are often precluded from relief and other opportunities provided to other small businesses, such as federally-funded assistance?

In addition to the social equity and micro-grant programs that I discussed in a previous question, I am interested in the concept of community banking, which is something that Cooperation Humboldt is working towards. Like some credit unions, I hope that a community bank could function without FDIC insurance and thus be able to provide financial services to cannabis companies. However, I believe that ultimately we need to legalize cannabis as the federal level, allowing cannabis companies to access the full range of financial services and relief opportunities that are available to other types of businesses and allowing for interstate commerce. When that happens, I want Humboldt and Eureka to be ready to promote our cannabis industries, to have a branding package that effectively tells our story and sells our cannabis, and to be able to take a large piece of the national market.

How do you envision the future of cannabis in your city, and in Humboldt County more broadly?

I see Eureka as a natural hub for Humboldt’s cannabis industry. We are already the place where many farmers go for groceries and supplies and to interface with the government bodies who regulate the cannabis industry. We should also be a hub for cannabis culture and lifestyle companies and for cannabis support facilities. I want to see a thriving industry in Humboldt County! I want to see an easier path to obtaining permits and licenses for small farmers, and I want to see jobs and career paths for the people of Eureka and Humboldt County. I want to see cannabis money remain in the County and be reinvested here, rather than extracted out of the County. I am working for a path to economic renewal in Eureka that tackles the overlapping crises of racial injustice, public health, economic inequality, and climate change. My platform focuses on economic development, infrastructure, and climate resilience. I believe that cannabis can, and must, be part of our solution! I believe that with cannabis, we have the potential to develop a new kind of industry, an industry that is based on regenerative practices instead of extractive ones. I would like to see an innovative, adaptive and responsive industry that honors community and place and that empowers its workers!

Do you currently, or have you enjoyed/consumed cannabis?

Yes, currently and historically.

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The Humboldt County Growers Alliance is a California mutual benefit, not-for-profit, trade association that is funded and owned by, and for its members

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