Pubdate: Fri, 10 Nov 2017
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2017 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Brad Branan


Recreational weed is now legal in California. So what does that

In January 2018, state and local authorities will begin issuing
licenses for the sale of legal recreational marijuana. But what do you
need to know before you rush to the dispensary? Information courtesy

When recreational marijuana sales became legal in Nevada on July 1,
customers were lined up around the block of a dispensary near downtown
Reno, eager to buy buds. In Las Vegas, cannabis enthusiasts showed up
in limos and tour buses, ready to participate in the opening-day pot

Similar scenes are unlikely to occur across the state when California
allows adults to legally buy marijuana Jan. 1. Very few places in the
capital region, for example, are considering allowing retail sales or
delivery of cannabis, and the ones that are don't expect sales to
begin by the start of the year.

Sacramento and Davis may allow dispensaries to sell pot to adults for
recreational use, while other cities and counties already have voted
against allowing retail sales. The city of Sacramento is the only
place in the region planning to allow commercial cultivation of
recreational pot, although Yolo County is permitting commercial
growing of medical marijuana.

The Sacramento City Council expects to discuss retail sales and
delivery at its Nov. 28 meeting. At least some of the city's 30
medical marijuana dispensaries are interested in selling recreational
weed, said the city's pot czar, Joe Devlin. Delivery companies also
are interested in selling pot, and they could become dispensaries
without a storefront, he said.

By 56 percent of the vote in November of last year, Californians
legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 and over. The
historic passage of Proposition 64 came two decades after state voters
approved medical use. Last year's vote also gave local governments the
authority to regulate or ban marijuana businesses. The lengthy process
of creating local and state regulations has yet to make clear when,
where and how recreational pot will be grown and sold.

In addition to local city and county permits, retail sale operations
also must receive approval from the California Bureau of Cannabis
Control, which won't accept applications for retail licenses until
December. While the bureau can issue temporary licenses by the first
of the year, it expects initial interest only from a few cities that
have regulations or soon will approve them, spokesman Alex Traverso
said. Those places include Oakland and Adelanto, a Mojave Desert town
that the mayor has billed as "the Silicon Valley of medical marijuana."

"(Recreational marijuana) is not going to be as easy to find as some
people expect," Traverso said.

Only a handful of local governments have approved regulations for the
sale of recreational marijuana, according to Traverso and officials at
the League of California Cities and the California State Association
of Counties. Cities in the Bay Area and Southern California are
crafting commercial cannabis regulations, but many places in the rest
of the state have been silent on the issue.

Regulatory uncertainty has created questions about the immediate
future of the estimated $4 billion cannabis industry in California.
"We don't know what the rules are," said Caity Maple, a Sacramento
lobbyist representing the California Cannabis Courier Association.
"It's kind of scary for the industry."

Some in the industry have become wary about investing in a market that
remains without defined rules and worry that they could end up banned
by local jurisdictions after starting a business that previously had
seemed welcome. Growers are facing that possibility in Calaveras
County, where a new majority on the Board of Supervisors has changed
course from the previous board that had embraced marijuana.

Following the devastating Butte Fire that scorched vast areas of the
county in 2015, the Board of Supervisors last year plotted a comeback
by seeking to take advantage of marijuana business by taxing and
licensing for-profit cultivation. However, after residents complained
about environmental and safety issues, a newly elected board now is
considering walking back on issued permits.

Some local governments have been waiting for the state to complete its
regulations for marijuana before approving their own, Traverso said.
The bureau was in the process of updating medical rules when Gov.
Jerry Brown signed SB 94 at the end of June, forcing the bureau to
scrap those rules and write a new set for medical and recreational
marijuana. The rules are expected to be released Nov. 16.

Local governments don't have to regulate or ban retail marijuana
activity. In some communities, past opposition of medical marijuana
makes future approval of recreational pot seem less likely. The state
is also less likely to approve retail licenses in cities without local
regulations supporting such sales, said Tim Cromartie of the League of
California Cities.

Cara Martinson at the California State Association of Counties said
the picture of where communities stand may take a while to fill out.
"You're going to see a slow evolution at the local level," she said "I
don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. A thoughtful process is

Martinson predicts that more cities and counties eventually will allow
recreational marijuana businesses than ban them, reflecting the wishes
of voters. A majority of voters supported Proposition 64 in 41 of the
state's 58 counties. In the capital region, voters in El Dorado,
Placer and Yolo counties rejected the measure, while Sacramento County
voters backed it.

For local governments, legalized marijuana provides a strong incentive
- -- additional tax revenue as pension costs and other expenses rise.
But local officials also worry about potential increases in crime,
pollution and other problems associated with the industry. Those
problems are expected to bring additional costs -- more police,
code-enforcement officers and development planners.

The Sacramento City Council recently wrestled with these issues, after
the city had shown more willingness to welcome the cannabis industry
than neighboring communities. Some council members are worried about a
report from the Office of the City Auditor that found some
dispensaries were underreporting tax revenue and failing to follow
city regulations on smoking on-site and how many plants can be sold.

Several council members have said they won't support retail licenses
for dispensaries found in violation of city regulations in the recent
audit. Devlin said it will be months before businesses are selling
recreational weed in Sacramento.

The city has registered 70 indoor cultivation operations and has
permit applications for about another 50, he said. Residents in North
Sacramento have expressed concern about a cluster of pot grows in
warehouses near Del Paso Boulevard.

Sacramento is poised to handle much of the region's recreational weed
business as neighboring communities have shown little interest in the
so-called "green rush." Davis has received 13 applications for up to
four available permits for commercial marijuana dispensaries in town,
which the City Council will consider sometime in the first three
months of next year, said Ashley Feeney, assistant director of
Community Development & Sustainability.

Other cities and counties in the region have banned retail sales,
including Sacramento County, Folsom, Roseville and Elk Grove. County
bans apply only to unincorporated areas.

Local governments in the region also have banned marijuana
cultivation, other than allowing up to six plants at home for medical
or personal use, as required under state law. Yolo County is one
exception, as it allows commercial cultivation of medical marijuana.
The county has approved 68 grow operations.

In Calaveras County, the idea of banning commercial marijuana
cultivation has led to several contentious supervisor meetings.
Martinson, of the California State Association of Counties, calls
Calaveras "ground zero in the legalization debate in

The county has 181 approved growers, with another 250 to 300 awaiting
application decisions, said county administrator Timothy Lutz.
Residents have complained about the potential for water contamination
and increased crime from marijuana operations, claims that the growers
and their supporters dispute. If the country decides to outlaw
marijuana grows, it would create an estimated $14 million hole in the
annual county budget from lost tax revenue.

Supervisors last month voted to send the issue back to the Planning
Commission to see if regulations could be created that would keep the
growers in business, while still addressing resident complaints.

Supervisor Gary Tofanelli said he hoped to find a solution that works
for both sides. The Planning Commission is scheduled to revisit the
issue Nov. 29 and supervisors expect to receive the commission's new
recommendations before the end of the year.

"As much as the Butte Fire, and even more, the winter storms, brought
us together as a county, this issue has cut and divided us
completely," Tofanelli said. "Each side has dug a trench."

In the capital region, very few local governments have allowed
cultivation of medical marijuana beyond what state law mandates, and
most have banned dispensaries from selling it. While some communities
have banned commercial sales and cultivation, most have not taken a
stand. The following are the laws that local governments have on the
books. Under Proposition 64, local governments can no longer ban
indoor cultivation for personal use and must allow the growing of up
to six plants per residence.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt