01.26.2016
policy

Why So Many California Cities Are Banning Weed

Because they are cruel and shortsighted.

Weed is big business in California. But the laws regulating its cultivation and distribution are mostly confusing.

In October 2015, with the signing of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRS), local jurisdictions statewide were given until March 1 of this year to develop and implement their own marijuana laws. If the localities fail to do so, according to MMRS, the authority over weed will fall into the hands of the state. In response, The League of California Cities––a lobbyist group that works to influence local legislation––has proposed Assembly Bill 21. Essentially, the group hopes to remove the confusing language from state laws, and keep the power to regulate weed at a local level. 

From the bill:

“Existing law provides that if a city, county, or city and county does not have land use regulations or ordinances regulating or prohibiting the cultivation of marijuana, commencing March 1, 2016, the Department of Food and Agriculture is the sole licensing authority for medical marijuana cultivation applicants in that city, county, or city and county."

Nearly 20 localities around the state have since banned medical marijuana dispensaries, while even more have moved to enact similar bans on cultivation and distribution

The city council of Merced voted in January on a moratorium on the cultivation of medical cannabis until it has a clearer understanding of how the Northern California city plans to regulate the herb once new state laws take effect. 

Despite the ban, Sister Kate, the leader of a group of self-described "cannabis nuns" based in Merced, made headlines for her group's outspoken defiance. Sister Kate told VICE: "[The Merced City Council] could shut me down. But I've already made it clear to all of them that they're going to have to shut me down."

Should cities fail to meet the March 1 deadline, it’s not just control of commercial weed that's on the chopping block. According to the Ventura County Star, “Six of Ventura county's 10 cities—Camarillo, Fillmore, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Thousand Oaks and Santa Paula—are rushing to go a step further by formally banning small-scale, personal cultivation of medical marijuana.”

In some of the cities, cannabis cultivation is already banned. For instance, the Pismo Beach city council voted in late 2015 to draft regulations that would ban cannabis cultivation explicitly for medicinal purposes.

In Los Angeles, where more than five times the Prop-D-mandated-amount of 135 dispensaries operate, the city council recently approved an ordinance to stop issuing tax regulation forms to medical marijuana businesses, in an effort to curb the amount of “illegal” pot shops.

The takeaway from MMRS, at least in the minds of local councils, appears to be: Preemptively ban cannabis before March, or lose the right to regulate it at all. 

 

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