Typo’s happen all the time, there is a never ending stream of written communications whether it be e-mails or otherwise, but rarely do they occur in legislation. However, that is exactly what happened when the state of California passed the Medical Marijuana Regulation & Safety Act (MMRSA) in October of 2015 that took effect Jan. 1 of this year. MMRSA, a package of three different bills; AB 243, AB 266, and SB 643 mandates that cities pass a medical marijuana regulation ordinance by March 1 or fall under State control.
While California government’s encroachment on local authority is nothing new, cities typically have more than 60 days to respond to legislation. Author of AB 243, Assemblyman Jim Wood who’s bill it was that set the deadline by mistake, has since issued an urgent legislation that is expected to pass the legislature for Governor Brown to sign. However the bill does not replace the March 1 deadline with another. Nonetheless cities around the foothills are taking the matter seriously so as to not fall under any type of State control on the matter.
Exeter City Council discussed the item during their Jan. 12 meeting where city attorney Julia Lew broke down the reason for the ordinance.
“We’re not doing anything revolutionary here. What we are doing is making it explicit since new legislation is allowing local jurisdictions to regulate these types of activities. Which is great because now we don’t have to rely on case law,” Lew said. “We need to have an express prohibition ordinance to maintain regulatory authority.”
Currently the city relies upon a single line stating that any conflict of federal or state law is banned but it does not provide an express ban on substances.
“We’ve been relying on one line in our ordinance about state and federal law but it’s kind of weak,” said Exeter City Administrator Randy Groom.
While the ordinance might soon be in effect 30 days after the second reading, there might not be a difference in terms of prohibition. Exeter Police Chief Cliff Bush stated that marijuana cultivation has been down.
“(Marijuana grows) have been declining here in town. I can’t remember any growing sites here in town over the last year,” said Bush.
Exeter’s proposed ordinance bans the prohibition of, cultivation, processing, delivering, and dispensing of marijuana within the city limits. However users of medical marijuana are still allowed to do so provided that they or their caregiver brings it to them from a dispensary outside of the city.
According to Lew, commercial distribution is banned in the ordinance.
Despite the likelihood of the March 1 deadline being lifted, other cities such as Woodlake and Lindsay are looking to pass ordinances as well. Woodlake is holding a public hearing today, Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 6 p.m. to consider adopting Chapter 8.50 proposing to enact restrictions of medical marijuana dispensaries, mobile dispensaries, cooperatives, collective, and cultivation. As well as consider Chapter 8.51 that would ban mobile marijuana dispensaries within the city limits.
Lindsay Interim City Manager Bill Zigler has noted that his staff will prepare public ordinance by the Tuesday, Jan. 26 council meeting. Zigler maintains that the city has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to the cultivation and distribution of marijuana and seeks to maintain that level of control through the prepared ordinance.
If cities choose to not pass their own ordinance MMRSA will place the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in charge of licensing and regulation for indoor and outdoor cultivation sites. As well MMRSA assigns joint responsibility to the DFA, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DWF) and the State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB) to prevent illegal water diversion associated with marijuana cultivation.