Pubdate: Wed, 06 Jan 2016
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Los Angeles Times
Author: David Garrick


SAN DIEGO - A new state law may prompt San Diego to regulate and 
allow cultivation of medical marijuana within city limits for the first time.

A memo issued last week by Deputy City Atty. Shannon Thomas describes 
ways the city could regulate growing marijuana, including creation of 
zoning regulations specific to the drug or simply allowing 
cultivation in all areas now zoned for agriculture.

The memo also says the city might need to impose a temporary 
moratorium on cultivation while exploring any new regulations.

Thomas said that a moratorium could help San Diego ensure that the 
new law, which went into effect Friday, doesn't permanently take away 
the city's latitude to regulate local cultivation.

The state's new Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act aims to 
legitimize the industry nearly 20 years after California voters first 
approved the use of medical marijuana. It also paves the way for 
regulations in anticipation of state voters approving recreational 
use of marijuana next year.

The legislation requires mandatory product testing and gives 
reluctant jurisdictions new motivation to permit dispensaries and 
marijuana cultivation by allowing them to collect fees and levy taxes.

But a mistake in the act prompted the city attorney's memo. The law 
says cities with no regulations in place by March 1 will permanently 
cede authority of cultivation to the state, but the author says that 
deadline was erroneously inserted.

It's a mistake that is expected to be fixed soon, however. According 
to the League of California Cities and the California chapter of the 
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, lawmakers who 
spearheaded the legislation and Gov. Jerry Brown have agreed to amend 
the legislation.

But just in case, the league is advising cities without regulations 
already in place to quickly pass complete bans on cultivation to 
assert their authority over the state. Cities would retain the 
latitude to soften cultivation rules later.

"In an abundance of caution, we have been advising our member cities 
to enact cultivation ordinances - in this case a ban - to make sure 
they preserve their regulatory authority whether the cleanup bill 
goes through or not," said Tim Cromartie, legislative representative 
for the league. "A ban is the quickest and cleanest way."

The city attorney, however, recommended a moratorium instead of a 
ban. She said a moratorium, which would require approval by eight of 
the council's nine members, is probably "the only way to meet the 
statutory deadline" of March 1. A ban would require only a majority 
vote of the council.

Thomas added that a moratorium would give the city time to consider 
cultivation legislation, which could be a complex and lengthy 
process. Cromartie disagreed. "We looked at whether a moratorium 
would suffice, and the answer from our attorneys came back 'no,'" he said.

Dale Gieringer, director of California's NORML chapter, said a 
benefit of the loophole is that it has prompted jurisdictions to 
explore cultivation regulations sooner than they might have. "It's 
good for cities and counties to get their ducks in a row," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom