Pubdate: Wed, 27 Jan 2016
Source: East Bay Express (CA)
Column: Legalization Nation
Copyright: 2016 East Bay Express
Author: David Downs


The medi-pot industry is racing to professionalize itself and lobby 
Sacramento before new rules remake the multibillion-dollar sector.

California's medi-pot industry is racing to organize itself and lobby 
Sacramento lawmakers before local and statewide rules remake the 
Golden State's multibillion-dollar legal weed sector.

Almost twenty years after state voters legalized medical cannabis, 
California's historic Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act 
(MMRSA) took effect on January 1. The state Assembly held its first 
joint committee meeting on implementing MMRSA on January 19. 
Representatives of many of the dozen or so state agencies that are 
tasked with regulating medical weed gave testimony at the meeting, as 
did members of the medi-pot industry.

"It's law and we are moving forward now," State Board of Equalization 
member Fiona Ma told me.

"It's the first day of the rest of our lives. It was nice to see the 
state taking steps to work on this," said Nate Bradley, director of 
the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA).

The January 19 meeting kicked off two years of hearings on the 
creation of new state rules, which will take effect by 2018. These 
rules will determine winners and losers in the new, 100-percent legal 
pot economy, so the industry is lobbying like never before. The CCIA 
held its first Sacramento conference on January 20 with 43 members 
and plans a huge state policy event on March 29.

At least a half-dozen state bills this year will seek to fund, 
clarify, alter, or add to the rules - sometimes pitting industry 
against cities, counties, and cops; other times pitting industry 
against itself.

Existing businesses are going to try to use the new regulations to 
shut out new market entrants, Bradley said. "The main divide is 
between the way it is now versus the open market," he said. "The 
protectionism people versus the freedom people."

Another group, the California Growers Alliance (CGA), is scheduled to 
hold its first San Francisco-Oakland chapter meeting on January 27 in 
San Francisco. Both CCIA and CGA are working to influence several hot bills:

Assembly Bill 21 is legislation by East Bay Assemblymember Rob Bonta 
that would lift a March 1 deadline for local cities or counties to 
regulate medical marijuana. AB 21 passed out of committee by a vote 
of 7-0 on January 20 and seems destined for the governor's signature. 
"Hopefully, that will alleviate a lot of these bullshit bans," said 
Ryan Bush of CGA-SF, referring to the recent onslaught of new bans on 
medical weed enacted by cities and counties because of the March 1 deadline.

Meanwhile, AB 1575 is a huge regulatory cleanup bill that addresses 
packaging uniformity; nurseries; new "virtual dispensary" licenses; 
research licenses; taxes and fees rules; temporary permits; testing 
rules; and transportation. It could be heard in committee on February 4.

AB 26 is a union-sponsored effort to mandate official training for 
all budtenders. And AB 1821 would allow businesses to pay taxes in 
cash without a penalty or waiver.

"If you're not at the table, you're on the menu," said Aaron Flynn, 
CGA-SF chapter leader.

On the menu: homegrowers; delivery services; and pot parties. The 
days of selling an extra homegrown pound to a dispensary are 
numbered. All commercial growers must be dual-licensed by state and 
local officials by 2018. Even progressive cities like Oakland don't 
want commercial pot farming in residential zones, due to fires, 
robberies, and ruined housing stock.

Homegrowers have a "tremendous uphill battle," said Alex Zavell, a 
regulatory expert in Oakland attorney Robert Raich's office.

Delivery-only services also face existential threats. Los Angeles, 
San Francisco, and San Jose have either sued or have threatened 
delivery services not tied to a physical dispensary. Dispensary 
owners are also lobbying to block competition from delivery-only 
services. The CGA said it faces a tough battle this year to create a 
new license for "non-traditional" dispensaries. "Any other word than 
'delivery,'" said Bush.

Pot parties with weed giveaways are also endangered. HempCon 
cancelled its regular San Jose event scheduled for January 27, after 
the City of San Jose promised to enforce its "no freebies" rule. The 
Emerald Cup, which drew 20,000 attendees to Sonoma County in 
December, might have to scrap freebies - a main attraction to the event.

Board of Equalization member Ma implored business operators to start 
paying their taxes and to take part in the rulemaking process. "Touch 
base with legislators, your assemblymembers and senators. Offer your 
expertise, invite them to come and see and learn and touch and feel," 
she said. "That will make them better advocates for the industry."

Locally, the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission is scheduled to 
hold a February 4 hearing for the six groups vying to win Berkeley's 
one new dispensary permit. And the Oakland City Council's public 
safety committee will likely hear a plan on February 9 to license 
Oakland's medical pot growers, hashmakers, and edibles kitchens. 
"Oakland is moving really fast [and is] actually leading the state," 
Zavell said.

Other cities are getting wise to the historic opportunity, as well. 
On December 29, the desert wasteland of Adelanto approved 25 medi-pot 
cultivation permits, collected $180,000 in permit processing fees, 
and lifted its cap on approving more farms.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom