Thursday, January 7, 2016

Supes Nix Planning Commission's Tweaks of Medical Marijuana Draft Ordinance

Posted By on Thu, Jan 7, 2016 at 1:01 PM

click to enlarge humboldt_county_ca_seal.jpg
In a play-it-safe move, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday that it would base its discussion on a proposed outdoor medical marijuana ordinance on the original draft produced by county staff, before it underwent dozens of hours of public comment and was re-written by the planning commission in November and December.

When supervisors discussed the proposed law, they decided the planning commission’s draft strayed too far from the simultaneously prepared mitigated negative declaration, a document that promises the law won’t have significant environmental impacts and avoids a full environmental review. So, following a staff recommendation, the supervisors said they would base their discussions off of staff’s original draft which was prepared in accordance with the mitigated negative declaration. (Here's Times-Standard reporter Will Houston's report from the meeting.) This, presumably, prevents the risk of a lawsuit regarding the ordinance, which could hold up its passage until after March 1. That’s when state laws, as currently drafted, say local governments must have medical marijuana ordinances in place or else cede regulatory control to the state’s new Bureau of Medical Marijuana. Supervisors are expected to meet this coming Monday and Tuesday in an effort to get a law on the books by deadline.

The scramble might prove unnecessary, though, if an emergency bill can pass the state Senate and Assembly (and then be signed by the Governor) in time to extend or kill the March 1 deadline for local regulations. North Coast Assemblyman Jim Wood, who co-authored one of the package of bills that established new medical marijuana regulations last year, has adopted a bill that would strike the deadline completely, saying it was never lawmakers’ intention to “place such a short timeline on local lawmakers.”

Assemblyman Rob Bonta — another author of the legislative package, has also introduced a bill amending the state’s direction toward regulation. (Though it doesn’t, despite some rumors, address the March 1 deadline.)

According to a press release, the bill “includes a number of provisions that address implementation, such as providing explicit authorization for current collectives and new businesses to operate for profit, establishing guidelines for the research and development of medical cannabis, adding refinements to testing and dispensary licenses, and requiring the exploration of different methods to address medical cannabis businesses’ access to financial services.”

From Assemblyman Wood’s office:

In an effort to give local lawmakers more time to develop medical cannabis regulations Assemblyman Jim Wood has adopted, and amended AB 21.

Assemblyman Wood said, “It was never our intention to place such a short timeline on local lawmakers. The current deadline gives jurisdictions just 65 more days to consult stakeholders, learn about the industry, and write good policy; that is not nearly enough time.”

The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) created a requirement for local jurisdictions - develop regulations for the cultivation and delivery of medical marijuana by March 1st, 2016, or relinquish that authority to the State. AB 21 would strike the deadline completely, allowing local jurisdictions to create new regulations around the cultivation of medical marijuana indefinitely.

“We have widespread support for this fix, including bi-partisan support from both houses, stakeholders, and the Governor’s office” said Wood. “I am hoping that AB 21 will be on the Governor’s desk before the end of the month and local lawmakers will give this complicated issue the time it deserves.”

The MMRSA was signed as a package of three bills (AB243, AB266, SB643) on October 9th, 2015 following a landmark stakeholder process. All of the authors have acknowledged that the March 1 deadline was mistakenly included as a holdover from previous drafts of the bill and in an LA Times article last month the Governor’s office stated, "The governor supports allowing local municipalities a reasonable amount of time to come up with regulations that work for their communities."

AB 21 will be heard in Senate Rules Committee on Thursday January, 7th.

From Bonta’s office:

Today, Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced AB 1575, a bill to clarify and improve implementation of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), which took effect on January 1st. MMRSA established the first comprehensive regulatory framework for the state’s medical marijuana industry and is considered one of California’s landmark legislative efforts of 2015. AB 1575 is authored by the same bipartisan coalition of Assemblymembers who authored MMRSA—Assemblymembers Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr. (D-Los Angeles), Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), and Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg).

“The passage of MMRSA ushered in a new era for California,” explained Assemblymember Bonta. “For the first time in nearly two decades, California is about to regulate medical marijuana to protect patients, businesses, our communities, and the environment. MMRSA resulted from an unprecedented collaboration among stakeholders, from local government, law enforcement, industry, patient advocates, environmentalists, and organized labor. AB 1575 builds on that historic success by refining a few outstanding issues in order to improve implementation and ease the transition for existing operators, local governments, and the general public.”

AB 1575 includes a number of provisions that address implementation, such as providing explicit authorization for current collectives and new businesses to operate for profit, establishing guidelines for the research and development of medical cannabis, adding refinements to testing and dispensary licenses, and requiring the exploration of different methods to address medical cannabis businesses’ access to financial services.

“By strengthening the framework passed last year, AB 1575 will ensure a smooth transition towards a rational, regulated market. I look forward to continuing to work with all stakeholders as California enters this important new era,” concluded Bonta.

AB 1575 will be heard in Assembly policy committees in April.

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Grant Scott-Goforth

Bio:
Grant Scott-Goforth has been an assistant editor and staff writer for The Journal since 2013.

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