Pubdate: Wed, 09 Dec 2015
Source: East Bay Express (CA)
Column: Legalization Nation
Copyright: 2015 East Bay Express
Author: David Downs


While California's new medical cannabis regulations are spurring 
progressive cities to advance toward more access for patients, while 
conservative towns are rushing to wind back the clock.

Two months after California regulated medical marijuana for the first 
time, patients and the billion-dollar industry are facing a mixed set 
of reactions from cities and counties around the state. Oakland and 
Sacramento are crafting "cannabis enterprise zones" to reap the tax 
windfall from ten types of newly state-licensed medical pot 
activities. And with the clarity of the new state rules, Marin County 
and the cities of Santa Cruz and Long Beach are advancing toward 
permitting dispensaries or other activity. The battleground city of 
San Diego has three licensed clubs open, and more on the way. And 
even the Southern California desert town of Adelanto is aiming to 
wean itself from its private prison tax base by becoming the cannabis 
mega-grow capital of the state.

But in a darker picture, patients in other areas are facing an 
organized, statewide effort to shut down safe access to medical 
marijuana this Christmas. "There's a lot of positives and negatives," 
said Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis 
Industry Association (CCIA).

A March 1 deadline to enact local regulations on medical pot that was 
included in the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) 
has generated a rash of the most restrictive bans that California 
patients have ever faced. Even though the state legislature is widely 
expected to repeal the deadline, about 25 California cities and 
counties are in the process of enacting bans on marijuana activity up 
to and including banning the indoor cultivation of a single plant.

Just last week, medical marijuana activity bans moved forward or were 
enacted in Manhattan Beach, Calistoga, Santa Maria, Irvine, Arroyo 
Grande, Fountain Valley, and parts of the Napa Valley region. 
Delivery services are now banned on Catalina Island. About six new 
localities are joining the ban list each week. Experts say that 
cities have been spooked into thinking they only have until March 1 
to ban all medical cannabis cultivation, or the state will ram pot 
farms down localities' throats.

The League of California Cities has been holding webinars for every 
city attorney in the state on how they can ban any medical cannabis 
activity. The league will hold a physical "Informational Briefing on 
Medical Marijuana" - featuring police and attorneys who teach cities 
how to legally ban all access - on December 11 in San Luis Obispo and 
in Rancho Cordova on January 13.

"The March 1 deadline has been overblown," said Hezekiah Allen, 
executive director of the California Growers Association (CGA). "It's 
created a false sense of urgency for a lot of people. ... We're 
seeing some pretty poorly though-out local policy."

MMRSA has become a windfall for law firms that make money writing 
medical cannabis bans and billing cities, said Sean Donahoe, a 
statewide cannabis lobbyist. "The localities right now are 
over-reacting based on misinformation," he said.

Patient and industry groups are scrambling to counter the league in 
city halls and county seats. "The fight has moved from the state 
capitol to the local government," said Bradley.

The CGA held two policy summits for local officials in Nevada City 
and Santa Cruz in December. The group is drafting model ordinances 
and providing a local legal framework for future local regulations.

Activist groups are also urging folks to register to vote, join 
groups like the Brownie Mary Democratic Clubs of California, and show 
up to council meetings. "The bridge needs to be built," said Allen. 
"Let them see you. We're not fighting the local government any longer 
or law enforcement any longer. The war is over if we let it go."

CGA and CCIA membership enrollment has spiked to ten times above 
normal since MMRSA passed. "I think [MMRSA] was the catalyst. It 
really kicked things into high gear," said Allen. Winning over local 
governments "is going to be the most challenging thing we've ever 
done, and there's nothing we've ever done that's worth more," he added.

Donahoe said that in certain areas of the state, there's a disconnect 
in terms of where voters and elected leaders are on the topic versus 
old-guard city staffers - especially the local city attorney, 
sheriff, or police chief. The easiest thing for uneducated city 
staffer to do is ban all activity rather than craft local 
regulations. By contrast, medical cannabis providers are falling over 
themselves to play by any and all new rules.

In the Bay Area, Eaze medical cannabis delivery and IncrediMeds 
edibles are touting their compliance with MMRSA rules. "We're saying, 
'We can't wait to be licensed,'" said Allen. "There's a lot of 
enthusiasm to comply. 'What are the rules? We'll follow them if you 
won't kick down our doors anymore? Great!' It's the social contract 
at its finest."

Many capital insiders are saying that the March 1 deadline for cities 
to exert sole regulatory authority over medical cannabis cultivation 
activity in their jurisdiction will be rolled back. A representative 
from Assembly Rob Bonta's office told a Santa Cruz crowd earlier this 
month that "leadership has already agreed that the March 1 deadline 
shall be deleted," Donahoe said.

"I expect a lot of this freak-out that's happening will mellow out 
over the next few months," said Allen.

"It's going to be a mixed bag," added Bradley. "As most people start 
to see it working, they're going to flip [to support access]."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom