Pubdate: Mon, 25 Jan 2016
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Associated Press
Author: Lisa Leff, The 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.

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 the state are racing to enact new 
bans on growing marijuana.

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.

"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 the state'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 a sprawling medical 
marijuana industry, Wood announced he would introduce an emergency 
bill this month deleting the March 1 deadline.

The League of California Cities and the California Association of 
Police Chiefs, while supporting the fix, has advised 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 said more than 160 jurisdictions either have passed or 
introduced legislation to outlaw only commercial cultivation or both 
commercial and personal growing.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom