Pubdate: Sun, 24 Jan 2016
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press


SACRAMENTO (AP) - When the Legislature passed the state's first 
comprehensive medical marijuana regulations in September, pot 
advocates hoped the move heralded a new era of trust in their 
often-tumultuous relationship with wary local officials and police. 
Christopher Chung / Santa Rosa Press Democrat 2015 Sebastopol 
Councilman Robert Jacob, who owns a medical marijuana dispensary, has 
been fighting pot-growing bans proposed in Sonoma County, asking 
instead for regulations to protect the local industry.

So far, it hasn't turned out that way.

Facing what appears to be a rapidly closing window for action, dozens 
of cities and counties from across California are racing to enact new 
bans on marijuana-growing. Some apply only to commercial cultivation, 
both indoor and outdoor, but many would also prohibit personal pot 
gardens that have been legal - or at least overlooked - for 19 years.

March 1 deadline

"Any other industry that created four months of seasonal labor and 
hundreds of thousands of jobs ... we would be giving tax breaks to 
those businesses," medical marijuana dispensary owner Robert Jacob, a 
member of the Sebastopol City Council who has been fighting 
pot-growing bans proposed in Sonoma County.

At issue is a paragraph in the 70-page framework approved in the 
closing hours of the legislative session that would give the state 
alone authority to license growers in jurisdictions that do not have 
laws on the books by March 1 specifically authorizing or outlawing cultivation.

Lawmakers involved in crafting the package say the deadline ended up 
by mistake in the final compromise regulations. Assemblyman Jim Wood, 
a Democrat who represents California's prime pot-growing region, 
included it in earlier versions as a way to free local governments 
from a responsibility they might not want, spokeswoman Liz Snow said.

"It was a way to try to make it clearer in terms of, 'OK, local 
jurisdictions. If you want to act, you should be thinking about it, 
working on it now. Otherwise, we will all defer to the state,' " Snow said.

Even before Gov. Jerry Brown signed the regulations, which create the 
first statewide licensing and operating rules for California's 
sprawling medical marijuana industry, Wood announced he would 
introduce an emergency bill this month deleting the March 1 deadline.

Short time frame

The League of California Cities and the California Association of 
Police Chiefs, while supporting the fix, nonetheless have advised 
their members to enact cultivation bans ahead of the original cutoff 
date as a precaution to preserve local control.

The two groups fought hard last year for provisions stating that to 
be eligible for licenses the state expects to start issuing in about 
two years, anyone involved in the commercial medical marijuana trade 
must first obtain a local operating permit.

Tim Cromartie, a lobbyist with the League of California Cities, said 
the guidance to ban all medical marijuana growing outright stemmed 
from the conclusion that the short time frame did not give local 
officials enough time to draft, debate and refine their own cultivation rules.

"Most cities, their staff have no clue how to begin writing one of 
these ordinances. Their first thought is, 'Don't the feds prohibit 
this? How can we do this?' " Cromartie said. "We know of 
jurisdictions that didn't want to have to ban, but they did it under 
the point of a gun."

With new proposals being introduced and voted on almost daily, no one 
knows yet how many of California's 58 counties and 482 cities have 
taken the league's advice.

The California branch of the National Organization for the Repeal of 
Marijuana Laws, or NORML, which has been monitoring what it's termed 
"the banapalooza," said more than 160 jurisdictions either have 
passed or introduced legislation to outlaw only commercial 
cultivation or both commercial and personal growing.

The crackdown has been a source of frustration for veteran pot 
farmers who hoped the new state regulations would bring clarity to 
their gray corner of the medical marijuana industry and instead find 
themselves "recriminalized," said Hezekiah Allen, executive director 
of the newly formed California Growers Association.

'Predisposition to ban'

Unless the local bans are lifted or modified, they would make medical 
marijuana growers in those areas automatically ineligible for the 
potentially lucrative and limited number of agriculture licenses the 
state expects to start issuing in 2018.

"Certainly we have been disappointed with the League of Cities, how 
they have chosen to proceed," Allen said. "A lot of the jurisdictions 
had a predisposition to ban, and the March 1 deadline unfortunately 
gave them cover to ban."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom