District 1 Update
Regulation of Medicinal Marijuana-Where Do You Stand?
Since 1996, when California voters passed Proposition 215, the issue of medical marijuana has been clouded with uncertainty, ambiguity and jurisdictional conflicts. Last year, however, our state Legislature finally passed extensive legislation, in the form of three bills, that address what had previously been a dearth of clear direction for local governments concerning cultivation, regulation and delivery of cannabis products.
Rather than staying mired in the confusion, the Placer County Board of Supervisors opted to retain local control over medical marijuana, which would have been lost if we did not timely adopt our own regulations. In December, the board directed staff to develop a comprehensive medical marijuana regulatory framework for the unincorporated areas of the county addressing cultivation, manufacture, delivery and taxation of medicinal marijuana and cannabis products.
I understand there are strong passions on both sides of this issue. Because cultivation of cannabis remains illegal under federal law, many believe California is remiss in allowing it. But I will remind you that Prop 215 was passed by a majority of the state’s voters. The federal government’s Department of Justice has also unambiguously stated they will only prosecute a specific class of marijuana cultivation and uses, state regulated programs not among them. We cannot deny that there have been problems associated with cultivation in Placer. Some believe that allowing cultivation is both legally and morally wrong. Marijuana is often seen as a gateway drug leading to drug abuse. Unfortunately, due to the lack of regulations, state authorized medicinal cultivation is a proverbial purgatory, enforcement wise, with law enforcement’s hands often tied as to what is and what is not authorized under state law.
Hence, there is a strong need for regulation in Placer County. Some semi-rural areas in Placer County are inundated with marijuana grows, with neighbors concerned about their safety, increased crime, environmental damage, the plant’s putrid odor and decreased property values. These cannabis operations pose a plethora of problems: illegal diversion of marijuana into the black market; the theft of water and the use of toxic chemicals that harm land, waterways, wildlife; and soil erosion. In addition, indoor grows are frequently associated with the hazardous use and theft of electricity.
I think the medicinal aspect of marijuana gets lost amid the roar of the arguments for and against cultivation. Marijuana in its myriad forms (tinctures, edibles, nasal sprays, sublingual’s, concentrates, creams, and smokables) is used to treat illnesses and pain. Cannabinoids have been shown to include pain-killing and other medical properties. We sometimes use a toxic mix of chemicals – chemotherapy -- to treat a person afflicted with cancer. When the antiemetic drugs lose their efficacy, the nausea can be overwhelming. Marijuana can quell that nausea, and, in all seriousness, stimulate the appetite in a sick person who doesn’t want to eat, yet desperately needs nutrition.
I realize there is abuse in the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes; I am not blind to that. However, I think we need to keep in mind that an important goal of regulated cultivation and sale is to assist those who are not well and need medicine to get better.
By regulating marijuana cultivation, we will reduce their numbers and the associated criminal activity. By controlling how grows operate and limiting their size, we can begin to get away from the environmental harm done by illicit grows. Through regulation we can monitor, test and ensure the product is what it says on the label. Most importantly, law enforcement will also have a bright line between those who are good actors, who are regulated, and those who are not.
In my quest to educate myself concerning this issue, I have toured dispensaries and cultivation operations in neighboring jurisdictions and was surprised by the professionalism, efficiency and technology used in these operations. Most run a tight, secure ship, some do not. As our neighbor city to the south has licensed over 34 dispensaries, which offer a multitude of cannabis products, I am not blind to the fact that the product is here in Placer County. My main concern is public safety and providing for those that may be effected by the abuse of medical marijuana. The recent California legislature’s act to regulate the industry, permitting commercial cannabis grows, licensing of dispensaries and delivery modes, compels Placer County to act in our residents’ best interest, to protect against abuse and permit those that truly need cannabis to treat medical conditions.
The process to correctly regulate the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana will take a lot of time and work. The County’s regulation of marijuana will also produce tax revenue. We will establish a mechanism that captures taxes on cultivation, manufacture and end use – yes, marijuana will be a taxable commodity – and use the revenue to offset the costs of regulation and to treat the social ills that are anticipated to come with greater use. I will also push for funds to augment our public safety programs.
As a former Deputy Attorney General with the State Department of Justice, tasked with protecting California’s citizens, I am not keen on the use of cannabis as a form of recreation, although I understand legitimate medical use is the law in California. As a member of the Board of Supervisors, I do not have the luxury of closing my eyes and wishing cannabis away, because it is already here in Placer County. However, despite the awkward position we are in, I will do what I can to ensure that regulations adopted by the county are strict, enforced properly and that our public safety members continue to have the resources necessary to protect the public.
If you have an opinion on medical marijuana, I urge you to make your thoughts known. There will be ample opportunities and forums where this issue is discussed. We will publicize the dates and times of those public meetings and workshops. The County will also be setting up an on-line poll to gather public input and commentary. I encourage you to participate in the dialog.
As always, it is an honor and a privilege to serve you. I always welcome your feedback and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 916-787-8950.