Pubdate: Sat, 24 May 2014
Source: Willits News (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Willits News
Author: Jane Futcher


Growers Must Lobby for Fair Regs, Lawyer Says

A prominent San Francisco civil rights attorney told a gathering of
medical cannabis cultivators in Laytonville Monday, May 19, that they
must lobby the California Legislature immediately to ensure that a
medical marijuana-licensing bill now making its way through the
Legislature is fair to farmers, patients and dispensaries.

Attorney Matt Kumin also predicted that by November 2016 a voter
initiative on the state ballot could give voters the opportunity to
pass a "recreational" use law allowing the commercial distribution,
cultivation, and production of cannabis products for all adult use,
not limited to medical.

Kumin said that the way farming communities approach the regulation of
medical cannabis, which may pass this year, could have a significant
impact on how the voter initiative in 2016 is written. That's why it's
important to get the medical licensing law right.

"There is a confluence of energy. People see it coming. We want to
face it," Kumin told 64 people at the Laytonville Grange. "Now is the
time to pass a fair licensing bill and not live in fear of these
Draconian laws."

Kumin spoke at the invitation of a cannabis medicine support group
that holds monthly meetings at the Grange. He and AIDS activist
Terrance Alan, co-directors of the political action committee
California Cannabis Voice, are organizing growers around the state to
press for a fair licensing law.

The two men will return for another public forum at the Laytonville
Grange June 2 at 2 p.m. They asked every grower present to bring at
least two friends to the meeting, as well as ideas for what they'd
like included in the bill and money for lobbying efforts.

"You must spend money to protect your political interest," Kumin said.
"You guys are going to have to pony it up."

Alan emphasized that the majority of money raised in Laytonville and
communities around the state would remain in the community, with only
a small portion going to help pay for the coordination needed for
groups statewide to know what others are doing and find a "unifying

Central to Monday's discussion are two California cannabis
legalization bills, one dead, the other currently being rewritten in
the Legislature.

State Assembly member Tom Ammiano's AB1894, which recently died in
committee, would have placed marijuana regulation and enforcement in
the hands of California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Ammiano's bill was opposed from the right by the California Narcotic
Officers' Association, which wanted to maintain control of cannabis

>From the left, the Patient Advocacy Network complained that no other
law on the books allowed an agency that regulates a recreational
substance to regulate a substance used for medical purposes.

SB1262, sponsored by State Senator Lou Correa (D-Anaheim), is still
alive, is being revised right now and could pass this year. The bill,
which has the support of the California League of Cities and several
law enforcement groups, would make California's Department of Public
Health responsible for licensing all dispensaries and grow operations.

Medical marijuana advocates say the bill would make it difficult for
many patients to obtain recommendations because it requires doctors
who recommend marijuana for a patient be the patient's primary care
physician or be referred by their primary care provider. Since many
primary care doctors are not aware of marijuana's medical value, or
are reluctant to suggest it for other reasons, they might not write

"We want fair licensing," said Kumin, who described himself as a
centrist. "We don't want to be treated in a prohibitionist way
anymore. We can live with fair, good laws; we just can't live with bad

Audience members voiced many questions and concerns about Sen.
Correa's licensing bill and the possible 2016 ballot measure.

One grower said he opposed any bill that allows the government to tell
cannabis farmers what they can and can't do.

"In truth, we don't want to be regulated," Kumin said. "But we see
regulation coming and instead of ducking and covering and avoiding it,
we want to work on a reasonable bill so we can continue to produce the
high quality cannabis everyone wants.

"The licensing bill will pass, and they will slowly, slowly, slowly
lean on people who don't have a license. We'll need amnesty. We will
fix ponds. We will comply with the law. If they come and we have to
pay permit fees, we'll say, 'Give us time.' Timber and fishing are
gone. What is left is cannabis. We want to come in from the cold. We
want to be integrated."

Julia Carrera, a Ukiah cannabis farm inspector, registered lobbyist
and consultant to the Small Farmers' Association, a medical cannabis
growers' support group, said she has already begun lobbying in
Sacramento. She envisions bus loads of people going to the capitol
demanding to save small farms and everything those farms represent.

"I am a newborn lamb up there," Carrera said, "and they seem to be
responding. Lobbying needs to come from a more vulnerable place."

Willits City Councilmember Holly Madrigal, who is running for Third
District Supervisor, said many of her constituents have expressed
"real anxiety and fear about the price dropping. How are we going to

Kumin noted that a Rand Corporation study has predicted that the price
of cannabis will drop 80 percent with legalization. He said that the
Midwest could become like "the Budweiser of marijuana."

One farmer responded that the climate in the Midwest is too cold, too
rainy and too humid to grow marijuana and lacks Mendocino's ideal
growing conditions. He said he favors the appellation regulation model
used in wine industry, which would legally define and protect the
geographical name, in this case Mendocino, where the cannabis is grown.

"I hope we can go with the appellation model because 350 plants is not
sustainable with the kind of water we have," another audience member
said. "Below a certain number a farmer should not have to be licensed."

When one grower suggested indoor growers be allowed to grow 2,000
plants, another audience member countered: "Indoor is going to go away
because it's not sustainable. We have to get our branding down and
organize. The big farms will come to a close."

A participant likened marijuana growers' cooperatives forming in
Mendocino County to the "fair trade" movement's positive impact on
small businesses in developing economies. "This is our little local
culture. The co-op is the answer to capitalism."

Performance artist and writer Sherry Glaser, whose Mendocino cannabis
dispensary, Love In It Cooperative, was raided in March and has now
reopened, said she hopes the proposed medical cannabis regulations
will protect "reciprocity" between states. Just as a physician's
medication prescriptions from another state are recognized in most
other states, so too, she said, should be a doctor's medical cannabis
recommendation. (Since cannabis is on the federal government's
Schedule 1 list of narcotics, doctors cannot legally prescribe marijuana.)

Throughout the meeting speakers as well as growers referred to
Colorado and Washington states, where "recreational" marijuana has
recently been legalized.

The key to Colorado's success, Terrance Alan said before the meeting,
was the state's adoption of medical marijuana regulations prior to the
new legislation. Consequently, the transition to recreational use has
moved much more easily.

Kumin said later that Washington State had medical cannabis laws and
regulations, but the governor vetoed most of them. The veto reduced
safe access for patients and is the reason why Washington is still
struggling with the interplay between medical and adult (recreational)

"Medication versus recreation is a false dichotomy," one grower said.
"We can't get railroaded into that. At base it's a spiritual thing."

Lobbying and licensing efforts will also be the topic of a meeting at
Dragonfly Dispensary & Wellness Center, 17851 N. Highway One, Fort
Bragg, Weds., May 28, 7 p.m.

Jane Futcher is the author of Women Gone Wild, a memoir about moving
to northern Mendocino County.
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