Pubdate: Sun, 08 Nov 2015
Source: Ukiah Daily Journal, The (CA)
Copyright: 2015 The Ukiah Daily Journal
Author: Adam Randall


Mendocino County has begun its review of the existing local 9.31 
Medical Marijuana Cultivation Regulation Ordinance in light of the 
recent medical marijuana regulatory package signed into law in 
October that will now require state oversight of the entire industry.

The new medical marijuana regulations take effect the first of the 
year, but local municipalities face a March 1, 2016 deadline to put 
in place regulations to preserve local control. Otherwise, the state 
will take jurisdiction in regulating that area.

The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors marijuana ad hoc committee 
was repurposed this past Tuesday to work on the issue, and hopes to 
report back to the board by year's end with possible recommendations 
regarding the local ordinance.

County Supervisors Tom Woodhouse and John McCowen, who were part of 
the former marijuana ad hoc committee that considered potential local 
impacts if marijuana were to be legalized, are leading the repurposed ad hoc.

Woodhouse said Friday that he and McCowen are going to take apart the 
county's current 9.31 ordinance and rebuild it.

At the very least, Woodhouse said, the ad hoc would be working on 
taxes and fees and how those can be collected locally, along with how 
those in the industry are going to get licensed locally, while also 
looking at the legislative process itself and gathering more information.

Woodhouse said the most important issue is how the county is going to 
effectively collect revenue as there isn't a big funding stream 
available to make up for the probability that extra staff would be 
needed in the enforcement of the new laws.

"Our concerns include the enforcement of people who don't buy into 
the system, and how we need to approach or fund the enforcement of 
the issue," Woodhouse said. "We're weak there."

Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers 
Association, a cannabis advocacy group, said there are still 
questions about land use as to what licenses will be required for 
what parcels with what permits, and what the fees will be.

"Counties and cities must determine how the program will be 
administered, who will enforce the regulations and what the penalties 
will be," Allen said. "This is going to be a challenging transition 
for everyone involved. It is going to take time. Keep it simple, 
focused and clear," he recommended.

Allen said with the new regulations, there are now opportunities for 
partnerships to address the public safety and environmental impacts 
of criminal activity, and that both the county and those in the 
industry should be looking to build those partnerships.

Mendocino County's current Medical Marijuana Cultivation Regulation 
Chapter 9.31 covers the unincorporated areas of the county by 
"balancing the needs of medical patients and their caregivers for 
enhanced access to medical marijuana, the needs of neighbors and 
communities to be protected from public safety and nuisance impacts, 
and the need to limit harmful environmental impacts that are 
sometimes associated with marijuana cultivation."

Proposition 215, passed by voters in 1996, exempts patients and 
caregivers who possess or cultivate marijuana for medical treatment 
as recommended by a physician, from criminal laws.

The county's local 9.31 chapter provides for local governance in 
relation to the rights of those under Proposition 215.

Specifically, local regulations include that 25 marijuana plants be 
allowed per parcel, either indoors or outdoors, for those eligible. 
The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office requires the issuance of 
zip-ties to be affixed to the 25 plants to provide proper 
identification for enforcement.

The ordinance also defines that illegal practices are forbidden, such 
as growing an excess of 25 plants, producing environmental 
degradation and diverting water from streams, creeks or rivers.

Until now, outside of efforts by law enforcement, state legislators 
say medical marijuana within California was largely unregulated at 
the state and local levels, and was consequently affecting the 
environment by some offenders who were stealing water, allowing 
pesticides to be discharged into water sources, and those who were 
abusing the medical marijuana system by profiting with illegal 
practices, all of which weren't alleviated until offenders were 
caught, by which time the damage was already done.

Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, Assembly members Jim Wood, 
D-Healdsburg, Rob Bonta, D-Oakland and Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, sought 
to change the industry this year by combining each's respective bill 
into what is now known as the Medical Marijuana Safety and Regulation 
Act, where specifics including environmental protections for natural 
resources, water use and discharge and pesticide use were added into 
the state's oversight and will now be regulated.

Allen said local jurisdictions will now have state assistance in 
handling compliance issues related to commercial cannabis activities, 
along with assistance in enforcement of noncompliance and criminal activities.

As such, the county will potentially have to define in its revised 
ordinance what it wants to regulate. Allen said under the new state 
law, cities and counties can now authorize and license commercial 
cannabis cultivation, manufacturing facilities, those that process 
the raw plant material into other products including, edible items 
and infused topical products.

Distribution will also be subject to licensing, as well as laboratory 
and testing facilities, and dispensaries.

"Implementation of this legislation means business opportunities in 
our communities, and will lead to safer communities," Allen said.

Additionally, the plant count defined in the current 9.31 ordinance 
has become an important topic among local medical marijuana 
cultivators who have said the amount allowed is too low, and have 
been asking the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors to increase the 
count allowed from 25 plants to 99 plants for some time now.

Woodhouse said that topic will also be considered within the ad hoc's 
scope of work.

"The plant count will be an important part of the discussion because 
there are consequences to everything we do," Woodhouse said. "It 
would be something for the full board to decide."

Woodhouse wants the public to know that the ad hoc is seeking advice 
in its reconfiguration of the county's local medical marijuana 
ordinance. He said comments or suggestions from the public in regard 
to the new laws and the ad hoc's work are welcome, and can be 
submitted by email or mail to any of the supervisors.

Woodhouse said he wasn't sure if any special meetings for the public 
would be planned to solicit input.

"I'm proud that Mendocino County is a leader in this," Woodhouse 
said. "It's a whole new ballgame now."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom