Pubdate: Wed, 30 Jul 2014
Source: SF Weekly (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Village Voice Media
Author: Chris Roberts


Jerry Brown is dominating. In the third act of his life, what the 
right-wingers dismissed just a few years ago as feeble effort for a 
curtain call is turning out to be more like a victory lap. He's 
cruising, barely contested, toward a second term in his second coming 
as California governor. He has taken advantage of an economic upswing 
to do what was once deemed impossible: get the state's finances in 
order while allowing business to grow without cutting services, an 
achievement feted by The New York Times as the "California comeback."

Barring disaster, Brown will serve in office until his 80s. And he 
appears hell-bent on making his last years memorable. "I'm going to 
build great things, I'm going to do big things," he told the San 
Francisco Chronicle's editorial board earlier this year.

And here's how: build a high-speed bullet train that connects San 
Francisco to Los Angeles in a few hours; bore giant $25 billion 
tunnels through the soil linking the Delta with parched farms farther 
south; and, finally, lay the groundwork for a multibillion dollar 
legal cannabis market.

That last one, while never on Brown's lips, is well within his power 
as the haggling over regulating the state's medical marijuana 
industry enters the 11th hour. But nobody is quite sure what Brown 
intends to do.

2014 has already been a 0x000Aremarkable year of "firsts" for the 
California pot industry. For the first time, the state's law 
enforcement lobby has agreed that marijuana is a business worth 
regulating as opposed to a scourge deserving extermination.

And meeting police chiefs and the powerful League of California 
Cities at the negotiating table is a more-or-less united cannabis 
industry. That cohesive front is also a worthy achievement, when you 
consider the bizarre, feud-like infighting within the pro-cannabis 
community that occurred in the days leading up to the defeat of the 
state's marijuana legalization measure (Prop. 19) in 2010. (One 
memorable flier, circulated that fall by a youthful backwoods pot 
grower, swore that evil agro-industrial giant Monsanto was behind the 
effort to let adults smoke weed in peace.)

As of this writing, a plan to put the state's medical marijuana 
industry under the control of the California Department of Consumer 
Affairs - which would issue licenses for a fee and conduct 
inspections while letting cities and counties deal with issues like 
zoning (and allow them to decide if they even want pot shops) - is 
inching towards completion.

If the bill, SB 1262, co-authored by Southern California Sen. Lou 
Correa and San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, clears a few more 
hurdles in the Legislature, it could reach Brown's desk by the end of 
the summer.

Except, the last few hurdles are big ones. As written, the bill puts 
mom-and-pop growers out of business if they can't afford a pricey 
license. What's worse is that nobody is sure how much a state-level 
bureaucracy for cannabis would cost. That could come out next month. 
But then there's the fact that nobody knows whether or not Consumer 
Affairs has the interest or ability to do the job.

An earlier version of the pot regulation bill put the state 
Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in charge of cannabis. Some 
potheads hate that model because it lumps marijuana in with Jack 
Daniel's and Budweiser. But at least ABC said it was interested and 
could do it. Contrast that to DCA, which hasn't even responded to 
elected officials' phone calls to attend a meeting, one Capitol 
staffer told me.

Who's making the call on that one? Jerry Brown. No Sacramento 
bureaucracy does anything without Jerry's approval, sources working 
the bill say. So if DCA isn't showing up, it's because they don't 
have JB's say-so.

"ABC is allowed to show up to meetings, and no one else - that's one 
of the weird 'non-signal' signals Jerry sends," a Sacramento-level 
staffer said last week of working with Brown, whom he likened to an 
all-knowing and all-powerful but ultimately intangible wizard.

This means the whole future of California's pot industry is in Brown's hands.

"It's the weirdness of the wizard," the staffer said. "And he works 
in mysterious ways."

Brown is in Mexico this week for a series of high-profile meetings 
with labor and political leaders. In a one-line email, a Brown 
spokesman said the governor doesn't comment on pending legislation - 
even legislation of which he appears to be the ultimate master.

That leaves everyone waiting to hear from the governor. Once Brown 
does make his exit from public life, it could be a California with a 
Tesla factory, well-watered fields, and a bullet train connecting it 
all. It could also be one with a booming pot trade.

Only Brown can tell - and so far, he's choosing not to.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom