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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Perceptions of cannabis among Humboldt County timberland and ranchland owners

  • Author(s): Valakovic, Yana
  • Quinn-Davidson, Lenya N
  • Stackhouse, Jeffery W
  • Butsic, Van
  • et al.

Cannabis is often grown on agricultural and forest lands in California, but little is known about the adjustments that traditional agriculture and timber producers are making to their livelihoods as cannabis becomes legal under state law. Our goal in this research was to better understand how larger landowners, whose families have often produced timber and cattle for generations, are experiencing increased cannabis production in their areas — and also to better understand these landowners' perceptions of the impacts of cannabis, whether positive or negative, on their communities. To accomplish this, we surveyed landowners who owned at least 500 acres in Humboldt County, an area that — more than 40 years ago — became one of the first California counties to begin experiencing expansive cannabis cultivation. Of the 211 landowners we invited to complete a survey, 71 responded, providing insights into their experiences with and perceptions of cannabis production. Many survey respondents reported illegal cultivation on their properties, problems with shared roads and other direct negative effects of cannabis production. Most landowners also reported that cannabis production has increased the cost of labor, though they acknowledge that it has increased the value of their property as well. Survey respondents, however, have not changed their views of cannabis with legalization. The findings of this study illustrate some of the challenges involved in developing land use ordinances and other policies that can support multiple industries whose interests may be in competition.

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