Communities across California are moving quickly to ban marijuana cultivation as new medical cannabis regulations take effect.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed the new rules last year, and they are set to go into effect soon. The legislation came 20 years after California became the first state to allow medicinal marijuana.
The regulations allow local governments to limit or ban cultivation, even for medical use, despite the fact that the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 explicitly granted grow rights to patients. Now, cities, towns, and counties are rushing to enact local rules before March 1, the deadline for municipalities to act.
New law came into effect Jan. 1
The new law took effect Jan. 1 and sets up a statewide system for licensing growers and dispensaries, with uniform industry standards that will be enforced by state officials. Under the terms of the law, communities have until March to pass their own rules or bans. If they don’t, the state alone will regulate medical marijuana.
The Sacramento Bee reports that local governments have become “paranoid about how to govern pot” as the new regulations arrive. More than 160 communities have prohibited patient grows over the last few weeks, the newspaper reports.
Those localities have all moved to ban any kind of marijuana cultivation, including patient and commercial grows. Reformers complain the votes are a “banapalooza” that will make it difficult for thousands of patients to get their medicine.
Anti-reform groups encouraging municipalities to act
Unfortunately, two groups that have long opposed any kind of cannabis reform are urging municipalities to ban cultivation as a precaution. Both the League of California Cities and the California Association of Police Chiefs have told local governments they could lose control of the situation if they don’t act soon.
The bans keep coming, with new votes almost every day, and many more are likely to move by the end of February. The state has 482 cities and 58 counties, and if more of them prohibit cultivation, it could be nearly impossible for patients to grow their own medication in large swaths of the state.
The deadline apparently “ended up by mistake in the final compromise regulations,” according to lawmakers who sponsored the legislation. The bill was rushed through the closing hours of last year’s legislative session.
Rushed decisions could be problematic
A new plan, passed by the state Senate Jan. 25, would remove the deadline so communities could consider their options more carefully. The state Assembly has yet to vote on the bill.
“It is crucially important the deadline is repealed as soon as possible,” said Assemblyman Jim Wood. “I am confident we will get this done soon.”
With bans in place, commercial medical cannabis farmers in many places would lose out on “potentially lucrative” grow licenses, expected to be available by 2018, according to reports in High Times magazine.