Pubdate: Fri, 08 Jan 2016
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Orange County Register
Author: Sal Rodriguez


Over the 20 years since California voters approved Proposition 215, 
medical marijuana policy has been left to a patchwork of widely 
varying local ordinances. Last year, state legislators approved the 
Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, a trio of bills 
establishing the first statewide regulations of medical marijuana.

The new package of regulations is set to govern the cultivation, 
manufacturing and licensing of medical marijuana businesses. Local 
control is mostly intact, with localities free to restrict marijuana 
cultivation, delivery and businesses.

However, an apparently erroneous line in the regulations have sent 
local governments across the state scrambling to impose bans on 
medical marijuana cultivation, mobile delivery and dispensaries ahead 
of a March 1 deadline set by the regulations. Under current reading 
of the law, local jurisdictions without ordinances regarding 
cultivation in place by the deadline will thus cede authority over 
the matter to the state.

Further, without explicit prohibitions on mobile delivery, marijuana 
may be delivered to patients under the law.

This has led dozens of governments to impose bans, in part to ensure 
local control. Just this week, Calistoga, Merced, Paso Robles, Pismo 
Beach and Tustin were among those moving forward with bans on 
cultivation and/or deliveries. Some were more sensible, like the city 
of Riverside, which voted to allow a certain amount of cultivation.

But in an open letter to city and county governments, Assemblyman Jim 
Wood, D-Healdsburg, described the deadline as "an inadvertent 
drafting error." Wood intends to work with his colleagues to "strike 
the deadline and maintain a local jurisdiction's ability to create 
their own regulations."

This at least has helped some local governments to indicate that, 
with the lifting of such a deadline, they would be open to revisiting 
their ordinances. And they have every reason to. With the deadline 
almost certain to be removed, local governments should embrace 
regulation rather than prohibition.

Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana patient advocacy 
organization, advises local governments that bans on personal and 
commercial marijuana cultivation are unnecessary and ultimately harm 
patients. "Lawmakers must remember that it is inappropriate to 
regulate medicines as they do vices, including alcohol and tobacco," 
the group argues in a memo to local governments.

Regardless of how one perceives the legitimacy of medical marijuana, 
the reality is people have, in consultation with physicians, 
determined that they can benefit from the use of it. While there 
obviously are instances where eye rolling is perfectly justified, 
more than 1.4 million Californians have already used medical 
marijuana, according to ASA  92 percent of who report significant 
relief from a serious medical condition.

If the past four decades of marijuana prohibition have taught us 
anything, though, it's that simply banning pot doesn't actually 
prevent people from accessing, growing and selling the stuff. In the 
context of a state which has opened its arms to marijuana for 
medicinal use, and which may very well legalize it for recreational 
use, prohibition is simply an exercise in government power for the 
sake of exercising government power.

Bans on personal cultivation simply hurt those without any other 
means of getting what they, and their doctor, consider medicine. At 
best, they push people in areas without commercial cultivation or 
dispensing into the black market, which doesn't serve any reasonable 
public policy provision.

Bans on commercial cultivation would have the same practical effect. 
In order for dispensaries to dispense, they need legal, regulated 
cultivation. As ASA argues, "Licensed commercial medical cannabis 
cultivators operate in the open. That makes the jobs of regulators 
and law enforcement much easier."

In time, local governments will likely make the right choices. In the 
meantime, they should resist the urge to panic and impose unnecessary 
bans which only serve the interests of the black market.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom