Discover a Joint Powers Authority: the California Cannabis Authority

by Ali Ong Lee

As part of our local governance series to invite public participation, we discover one of the newer Joint Powers Authorities (JPAs) to which Humboldt County belongs: the California Cannabis Authority (CCA).

Last month in EcoNews, we briefly reviewed JPAs, operating mostly within Humboldt, whose decisions have lasting impacts on the environment.  Those JPAs are:

  • Humboldt Bay Fire,
  • Humboldt County Association of Governments, 
  • Humboldt/Del Norte Hazardous Materials Response Authority
  • Humboldt Transit Authority,
  • Humboldt Waste Management Authority, and the
  • Redwood Coast Energy Authority.

The exception to the above list is the third JPA, the Humboldt/Del Norte Hazardous Materials Response Authority (HMRA).  It is an example of joint governance between two counties. 

The goals of JPAs — whether or not they operate within county borders or beyond — are to form a legal entity and make long-term agreements to work together to provide services. Consolidation of services can lead to efficiencies like combined purchasing power. It can also lead to consolidated legal and political powers. California Government Code Section 6500, the Joint Exercise of Powers Act, allows JPAs to either exercise common powers, or form a separate legal entity.

Here is a deeper dive into the California Cannabis Authority (CCA), a public JPA, whose inter-county decisions have long-term impacts on Humboldt’s environment.  As its own legal entity, CCA was established by:

  • 1996’s Proposition 215, “The Compassionate Use Act,” charging local governments to regulate medical cannabis, and
  • 2016’s Proposition 64, “The Adult Use of Marijuana Act” legalizing cannabis in California.

In 2018, CCA was formed by participating counties to combine data needed for legal cannabis industry regulation and taxation. CCA understood that they needed real-time information for monitoring the processes of financing, growing, selling, and distributing marijuana. This JPA signed a five-year agreement with National Compliance Specialists Analytics (NCS) to use their computer platform for data collection and analysis. Its founder and CEO, Adam Crabtree, is CCA’s Technology Consultant, based in Colorado (the first state to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, in 2014).

Also in 2018, EcoNews re-printed a press release from Friends of the Eel River about its lawsuit against the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors for not adequately protecting watersheds when it came to the cannabis industry. The release addressed the cumulative negative impacts of what can be lucrative pot cultivation: 

Adverse watershed impacts associated with marijuana cultivation include increased sediment from roads, stream crossings and grading activities; dewatering salmon-bearing streams; and introduction of toxic pesticides and fertilizers.

These impacts still threaten watersheds large and small snaking through Humboldt. Associated issues related to the resource-intensive marijuana industry can have adverse impacts, from unsustainable energy use; non-biodegradable, re-usable, or recyclable packaging; and carbon emissions related to distribution and transportation.

CCA was designed to manage local financial compliance.  Also, the purpose of CCA is to transition the cash-industry into a more formalized banking and financial industry. CCA was established by the California State Association of Counties’ Finance Corporation.

On April 1, 2020, one of the cannabis industry’s national newsletters reported the need for data to provide to the marijuana banking industry.  In 2019, the national cannabis industry paid 1.6 billion in taxes. estimates that, in 2019, California received “$635 million in state and local cannabis tax revenue.” (

According to CCA, “Our purpose is to provide local jurisdictions with access to all cannabis data in one location so that cities and counties can have an accurate understanding of what commercial cannabis activity is happening in their jurisdiction.”  CCA’s primary goals are to provide counties with both the tools and a consortium of local governments.

This newer JPA is led by Humboldt’s Second District Supervisor, Estelle Fennell, who is CCA’s first president. John Bartholomew, Humboldt County Treasurer-Tax Collector is the alternate for CCA.

CCA is a state-wide JPA with county government entities. CCA’s original two participating counties were Monterey County and San Luis Obispo County.  Today, there are six.

CCA’s Current County Members of 58 Possible Counties

  1. Humboldt
  2. Inyo
  3. Mendocino
  4. Monterey
  5. San Luis Obispo
  6. Yolo

While only California counties can join CCA and become voting members, California’s 482 cities can join as CCA participants, but with no voting rights.  CCA’s June 19 2019 meeting notes read that fees to belong are “0.35%…on total sales within the jurisdiction over which it has cannabis regulatory authority.”  That is, the fee is proportional to the amount of cannabis sold within a member’s boundaries.

California Cannabis Authority (CCA)



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