Pubdate: Sun, 24 Dec 2017
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2017 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Laurel Rosenhall


Some details of legalized recreational marijuana have changed since
California voters approved Proposition 64 in 2016.

California is days away from launching a legal marketplace for adults
to buy and sell recreational marijuana. On Jan. 1, the state will
carry through on a vision voters endorsed by passing Proposition 64
last year.

Yet as legal cannabis moves from campaign pitch to reality - amid lots
of lobbying by industry groups along the way - some details of the
plan have changed. State regulators approved the official rules last
month and will update them in about a year.

"Some of the things that were touted (during the Prop. 64 campaign)
definitely have been changed or reneged," said Andrew Acosta, a
political consultant who worked on the campaign against the initiative.

Here are a few ways the new rules differ from what voters may have

Protecting small farms? Campaign literature supporting Prop. 64 last
year said the initiative "protects small farmers, so California's
marijuana industry isn't overrun by mega-corporations." The measure
was crafted to give small-scale growers a five-year advantage by
forbidding licenses for pot farms bigger than one acre until 2023.

Now many of the mom-and-pop growers who were supposed to benefit are
crying foul. They say the new rules won't protect them because there's
no limit on the number of small-farm licenses a business can get.

"A grower can get 10 licenses and effectively be a large grower. That
seems like a loophole," said Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the
California Growers Association, which represents more than 1,000
marijuana businesses, including many small farms in the northern
reaches of the state.

Legislators from the north coast went even further, with state Sen.
Mike McGuire calling the current rules "a broken promise." A Democrat
from Healdsburg, McGuire issued a statement saying that without a cap
on the number of licenses, large corporations will "crush the
livelihood of small family farmers."

A spokesman for the Department of Food and Agriculture, which
regulates cannabis farms under Prop. 64, said the rules don't include
a cap on small licenses "because Proposition 64 did not provide
authority to impose such a limit."

"However," spokesman Jay Van Rein said, "local jurisdictions may
impose that type of limit on their own if it meets the needs of their

Tap-an-app delivery to your doorstep. Backers of Prop. 64 said
emphatically last year that the initiative was not intended to allow
on-demand delivery of recreational marijuana, a popular service among
medicinal users that allows them to order cannabis products from an
online menu and have drivers deliver the drugs to their door.

The Prop. 64 campaign even made the argument before a judge, saying
the initiative would not allow customers to place orders online - only
"in a brick and mortar establishment."

They were trying to beat back opposition from law enforcement groups
that argued that Internet-based home delivery would make it too easy
for teenagers to get marijuana.

Now it turns out California will allow on-demand delivery of
recreational cannabis, including for orders placed online.

"That was something we have heard a lot about from the very beginning,
about how people wanted to be able to deliver to people's homes," said
Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the Bureau of Cannabis Control, which
held public meetings around the state during the process of drafting
the recreational marijuana rules.

"After hearing the reaction from people in the industry, from
patients, from people who came to summits and town halls, it became
clear that it was something we needed to look at."

Prop. 64 spokesman Jason Kinney said many local governments wanted
rules that would allow for on-demand delivery. Some cities wanted to
prohibit cannabis storefronts, but allow businesses to deliver it to
customers who order online.

"We give them the authority to decide what takes place in their
jurisdiction," Kinney said, noting that online delivery services must
have a distribution premises licensed by local officials. "We don't
view it as being in conflict" with arguments made in the Prop. 64 campaign.

Restrictions on advertising. Promises that Prop. 64 would ban cannabis
ads aimed at youths permeated the campaign last year. The measure does
restrict how licensed marijuana businesses can advertise, forbidding
them from mounting billboards alongside interstate highways, as well
as near schools and playgrounds.

But it turns out that the language of the law doesn't cover all
businesses that have a commercial interest in marijuana. It leaves out
companies - like the popular website Weedmaps - that promote cannabis
businesses but don't directly sell marijuana themselves.

That's because the law only restricts advertising by licensed
marijuana businesses, and a Web platform that doesn't directly sell
marijuana doesn't need a state license.

Weedmaps billboards - some sporting phrases like "High California,"
"High Hollywood" and "High Sactown" - have popped up around the state.
The company has 120 billboards up in California, including three along
interstate highways, said spokesman Carl Fillichio. He said Weedmaps
does not advertise near schools or playgrounds.

A bipartisan team of state legislators thinks the website should be
subject to the same rules as other marijuana businesses.

"They are clearly promoting use of cannabis and advertising cannabis,
and in my view, they should be subject to the same rules and
regulations as licensees," said Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda. He's
one of five lawmakers who signed a letter asking state regulators to
find a way to limit ads by marijuana-focused Web platforms.

"Maybe we thought at the time when we adopted Prop. 64 that licensees
was the appropriate universe to cover, but certainly Weedmaps is
driving a truck through a loophole that should be closed," Bonta said.

Kinney, the Prop. 64 spokesman, is also a lobbyist whose firm
represents Weedmaps. The company spent at least $850,000 to help pass
Prop. 64 last year and an additional $172,000 lobbying this year on
its implementation.

He said he couldn't comment on how Weedmaps will respond to lawmakers'
demand to limit advertising. But he noted that regulating advertising
by a media platform is a "slippery slope."

"I assume we'll be actively part of a discussion next year," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Matt