Pubdate: Wed, 28 Oct 2015
Source: Ukiah Daily Journal, The (CA)
Copyright: 2015 The Ukiah Daily Journal
Author: Adam Randall


Mendocino County, along with other California counties and cities, 
has a lot to consider when it comes to the new Medical Marijuana 
Regulation and Safety Act recently signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors heard a presentation from 
Rural County Representatives of California Senior Legislative 
Advocate Paul Smith Monday night, in which Smith laid out what the 
county needs to begin thinking about at a local level prior to the 
new medical marijuana regulations, set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2016.

North Coast legislators, Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, and 
Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, promised sweeping regulations to 
clean up medical marijuana practices when their bills, SB 643 and AB 
243, were separately introduced earlier this year, but were later 
combined together and included Assemblyman Rob Bonta's AB 266 as part 
of the overall package, all of which received approval by the 
governor just hours before the deadline earlier this month.

The supervisors took no action Monday, but said to expect an agenda 
item "sooner rather than later," which may happen by their second 
meeting in November, as each city and county has until March 1, 2016 
to enact a local cultivation ordinance to regulate or ban medical 
marijuana practices before surrendering such rights to the state.

However, licenses for people to provide medical marijuana services, 
including growing or making products, dispensaries and delivery 
services, won't be required until Jan. 1, 2018.

Smith said the reason for the time gap is to give regulatory bodies 
the time to move forward with rule making.

Stakeholders involved in providing medical marijuana services will be 
required to go through a "dual licensing" process, meaning they won't 
be able to operate on the business side without first receiving state 
and local approval with probable restrictions on those with previous 
felony criminal violations, including illegal cultivation.

Local cultivators would have to come before the Board of Supervisors 
or city councils before commencing the application process at the 
state level, according to Smith, although he said the package 
includes two license exemption categories, meaning a personal medical 
grow or five-patient caregiver grow are exempt from needing a state license.

Smith said that when the package was in the Legislature, RCRC, a 
rural county advocacy agency, would not agree to support it until its 
four core policy principles were included, which were preserving 
local control, an explicit county taxing authority provision, ending 
the collective model and addressing environmental impacts.

"It is our cornerstone of any conversation," Smith said of preserving 
local control. "We wanted to make sure local land use control was preserved."

Local control provisions allow for the county to decide how, where 
and when cultivation will take place, along with local law 
enforcement activity, enforcement of local zoning requirements or 
ordinances, while also providing that no local control can be 
superceded, and giving control to counties for the ability to ban 
medical marijuana practices altogether.

A complete ban would be unlikely for Mendocino County as it already 
permits 25 plants per parcel grows for medical growing purposes, 
which local cultivation advocates and users have been pushing the 
Board of Supervisors to raise to 99 plants.

"I'm not immediately concerned with the plant count, but am concerned 
with the March 1 deadline," 2nd District County Supervisor John 
McCowen said. "I do think Mendocino County does need to consider 
updating our local ordinance so the state doesn't end up making more 
decisions for us."

McCowen added the thought of the Mendocino County Board of 
Supervisors Marijuana Ad Hoc Committee, comprised of he and 3rd 
District Supervisor Tom Woodhouse, starting work on the local issues 
at hand in conjunction with the county's Executive Office with the 
possibility of repurposing the ad hoc in the future.

Also under the local control provisions, counties will be able to 
levy their own taxes and fees, including facilities and deliveries, 
although state taxes on the product have yet to be specified.

Ending the collective model pertains to having a strict dual 
licensing system where individuals or businesses may not engage in 
commercial medical marijuana activities without the possession of 
both a state or local license or permit.

Fines and penalties for illegal operations will go into the Medical 
Cannabis Fines and Penalties Account for state and local agencies to 
enforce environmental regulations. The Bureau of Marijuana Regulation 
will provide a grant program at the local level to aid with such 
regulation and enforcement, along with water diversion protection and 
cultivation standards.

Smith said enforcement of the law will not just be an obligation of 
the state, but at the local level as well. For example, financial 
records of licensees may be examined at any time.

Two new bills by Assemblyman Wood, AB 1548 and AB 1549, are expected 
to address specific tax issues and cash revenue when the state 
Legislature reconvenes in January.

The new provisions weren't included in the new regulatory package as 
what Smith said could have caused a hang-up in the package's 
approval, so the issues were dropped as a result, and will now be 
reintroduced by Wood separately.

AB 1548, if approved, would impose state cultivation taxes, 
specifically $9.25 per ounce on marijuana flowers, $2.75 per ounce on 
marijuana leaves and $1.25 per ounce on immature marijuana plants, 
and would be collected at the distributor level with the state's 
Board of Equalization responsible for administering and collecting 
the tax on a quarterly basis.

"The bill is in print and he (Wood) is ready to move it when the 
Legislature returns," Smith said.

The tax proceeds would be deposited into a Marijuana Production and 
Environmental Mitigation Fund, with 35 percent of distributions going 
toward the California Department of Food and Agriculture for local 
law enforcement efforts to curtail illegal cultivation.

Additionally, a 35 percent cut would go to the California Natural 
Resources Agency to provide a competitive grant program for 
environmental cleanup, while 30 percent of the collected funds would 
be dedicated to the Department of Fish and Wildlife and State Water 
Resources Control Board to handle the environmental impacts of 
medical marijuana cultivation, Smith said.

AB 1549 would help enact "state banking," for those involved in the 
medical marijuana industry who are typically denied banking services 
because of how the money is made, leaving those stakeholders forced 
to operate on a "cash only" model.

"We don't believe an all -cash business is appropriate at RCRC," 
Smith said. "Obviously, Mr. Wood shares that same concern."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom