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Sacramento, CA – A national medical marijuana advocacy organization published a memo and model ordinance on Monday for California cities and counties recommending that they regulate the cultivation of medical marijuana instead of banning it. The memo and model ordinance are part of project by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) to support patients and advocates fighting bans on cultivation and pushing for local licensing and regulation of medical marijuana businesses.
“Medical cannabis advocates need tools and training to talk with their local lawmakers about medical marijuana,” said ASA California Director Don Duncan. “This project is all about supporting and empowering those local advocates to make a difference in their hometown.” ASA’s new Local Access Project (LAP) is a web portal with links to documents and online training that medical marijuana supporters can use to talk with their representatives on the City Council or County Board of Supervisors.
While California voters led the nation in legalizing medical marijuana in 1996, the state has lagged behind other medical marijuana states in adopting a statewide regulatory scheme. Cities and counties have adopted a patchwork of regulations and bans in the nineteen years since voters approved Proposition 215. Governor Brown signed a historic trio of bills known as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) to license and regulate commercial medical marijuana at the state level on October 9, 2015.
The new legislation creates the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation (BMMR) in the Department of Consumer Affairs to oversee state licensing. The bill also charges state agencies with developing regulations for cultivation, testing, and dispensing medical marijuana. Medical marijuana businesses must have both a state and local license to operate before January 1, 2018. While cities and counties must approve medical marijuana businesses in most cases, the current version of the MMRSA allows the BMMR to license commercial cultivation without local approval in a city or county that does not authorize or ban commercial cultivation before March 1, 2016.
“The deadline for local licensing of commercial medical cannabis in March has caused some cities to overreact,” said Duncan. “In some cases, local governments are even banning marijuana cultivation by individual patients. That was never the intent of the law, and it is unlikely that that provision will remain in state law.”
California Assembly Member Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa), one of the authors of the MMRSA, stated in an open letter to local lawmakers last week, that the March 1, 2015, deadline for adopting local ordinances was the result of “an inadvertent drafting error.” The Assembly Member noted this error in the Assembly Journal, the official record of the Assembly, and is already engaged in a bipartisan effort to remove the deadline. The Assembly Member concludes his letter to local lawmakers by saying, “I am confident that my colleagues and I will eliminate the March 1st deadline before it becomes a realistic problem as opposed to a theoretical concern for lawmakers.” The letter is attached, following the tables, at the end of the memorandum.
ASA hopes the LAP will give patients and other advocates tools to talk to lawmakers about alternative to banning medical marijuana cultivation. “I believe that, given the choice, some cities and counties will opt to protect legal patient and the community at large by adopting a local licensing ordinance instead of a ban.”
ASA’s memo recommends that cities and counties use existing business licensing ordinances to authorize commercial medical cannabis cultivation and to specifically protect the right of legal patients to grow their own marijuana for personal use. The MMRSA allows personal cultivation and exempts patients cultivating marijuana in 100 square feet or less from state licensing and regulation.