Pubdate: Thu, 11 Jun 2015
Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)
Copyright: 2015 Appeal-Democrat
Author: Eric Vodden


Legislation recently passed by the Assembly would give the state more 
control over regulating medical marijuana  how much that would affect 
the fight over Yuba County's tighter cultivation ordinance remains unclear.

"I don't think it would affect it immediately," said area Assemblyman 
James Gallagher, who cast one of only five votes against the bill. 
"But in the long-term it could."

AB 266, passed by the Assembly last week, would create the Office of 
Marijuana Regulation within the governor's office, with assistance 
from the departments of Public Health, Food and Agriculture and the 
Board of Equalization. It calls for criminal background checks by the 
state Department of Justice and a review on whether wastewater 
standards are being met by the State Water Resources Control Board.

But it also specifies local governments could still license or reject 
commercial operations. That would seem to make it likely that Yuba 
County's ordinance banning outdoor grows, passed in March, would 
remain in effect.

"Right now, I believe the county is a little more strict than the 
state would be," said Russ Brown, public information officer and 
legislative affairs analyst for Yuba County. "I don't see the state 
trying to upend that. It's still very much a local issue."

One legislator told the Associated Press the medical marijuana 
industry resembles the "wild, wild West."

AB266, a combination of multiple pieces of medical marijuana bills, 
would still allow local counties and cities to ban cultivation. But 
it proposes a two-tiered licensing system in which both local and 
state licenses would be required.

"There was a reference to the wild West, and that is what this bill 
is trying to move away from," Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, told 
The Associated Press. "I think we can all agree that stronger 
regulation is needed ... and is long overdue."

Yuba County is only one of several counties is dealing with the issue 
of marijuana cultivation. But it seems to be a place where medical 
marijuana supporters have drawn a line in the sand.

A lawsuit is pending in Yuba County Superior Court challenging the 
constitutionality of the new ordinance. It has also sparked threats 
of recall elections and voter initiatives to overturn the ordinance 
and to allow cannabis dispensaries.

It's also been an issue in Butte County, where voters last November 
defeated a referendum seeking to overturn that county's tighter 
medical marijuana ordinance.

"Ultimately, locals should be able to determine how they want to deal 
with this issue," Gallagher said.

The Assembly bill was sent to the Senate by a 50-5 vote. Gallagher 
said there are portions of the bill he supports, but it doesn't go 
far enough to ensure local control remains intact.

"There is a role for the state to play, but my feeling is it creates 
an overreaching state bureaucracy that could usurp local control," he said.

Galllagher said it's likely amendments will be added to the bill in 
the Senate and that it could find its way back to the committee level.

"It's definitely a work in progress," he said.

The Senate has also approved a separate medical marijuana bill that 
would be friendlier to growers along the North Coast by leaving most 
of the enforcement at the local level, the AP reported.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom