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California - Licensing Of Medical Cannabis Imminent

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Growers must lobby for fair regs, lawyer says A prominent San Francisco civil rights attorney told a gathering of medical cannabis cultivators in Laytonville Monday, May 19, that they must lobby the California Legislature immediately to ensure that a medical marijuana-licensing bill now making its way through the Legislature is fair to farmers, patients and dispensaries. Attorney Matt Kumin also predicted that by November 2016 a voter initiative on the state ballot could give voters the opportunity to pass a "recreational" use law allowing the commercial distribution, cultivation, and production of cannabis products for all adult use, not limited to medical.

Kumin said that the way farming communities approach the regulation of medical cannabis, which may pass this year, could have a significant impact on how the voter initiative in 2016 is written. That's why it's important to get the medical licensing law right. "There is a confluence of energy. People see it coming. We want to face it," Kumin told 64 people at the Laytonville Grange. "Now is the time to pass a fair licensing bill and not live in fear of these Draconian laws." Kumin spoke at the invitation of a cannabis medicine support group that holds monthly meetings at the Grange. He and AIDS activist Terrance Alan, co-directors of the political action committee California Cannabis Voice, are organizing growers around the state to press for a fair licensing law.

The two men will return for another public forum at the Laytonville Grange June 2 at 2 p.m. They asked every grower present to bring at least two friends to the meeting, as well as ideas for what they'd like included in the bill and money for lobbying efforts. "You must spend money to protect your political interest," Kumin said. "You guys are going to have to pony it up." Alan emphasized that the majority of money raised in Laytonville and communities around the state would remain in the community, with only a small portion going to help pay for the coordination needed for groups statewide to know what others are doing and find a "unifying message."

Central to Monday's discussion are two California cannabis legalization bills, one dead, the other currently being rewritten in the Legislature. State Assembly member Tom Ammiano's AB1894, which recently died in committee, would have placed marijuana regulation and enforcement in the hands of California's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Ammiano's bill was opposed from the right by the California Narcotic Officers' Association, which wanted to maintain control of cannabis enforcement. From the left, the Patient Advocacy Network complained that no other law on the books allowed an agency that regulates a recreational substance to regulate a substance used for medical purposes.

SB1262, sponsored by State Senator Lou Correa (D-Anaheim), is still alive, is being revised right now and could pass this year. The bill, which has the support of the California League of Cities and several law enforcement groups, would make California's Department of Public Health responsible for licensing all dispensaries and grow operations. Medical marijuana advocates say the bill would make it difficult for many patients to obtain recommendations because it requires doctors who recommend marijuana for a patient be the patient's primary care physician or be referred by their primary care provider. Since many primary care doctors are not aware of marijuana's medical value, or are reluctant to suggest it for other reasons, they might not write recommendations.

"We want fair licensing," said Kumin, who described himself as a centrist. "We don't want to be treated in a prohibitionist way anymore. We can live with fair, good laws; we just can't live with bad laws." Audience members voiced many questions and concerns about Sen. Correa's licensing bill and the possible 2016 ballot measure. One grower said he opposed any bill that allows the government to tell cannabis farmers what they can and can't do.

"In truth, we don't want to be regulated," Kumin said. "But we see regulation coming and instead of ducking and covering and avoiding it, we want to work on a reasonable bill so we can continue to produce the high quality cannabis everyone wants. "The licensing bill will pass, and they will slowly, slowly, slowly lean on people who don't have a license. We'll need amnesty. We will fix ponds. We will comply with the law. If they come and we have to pay permit fees, we'll say, 'Give us time.' Timber and fishing are gone. What is left is cannabis. We want to come in from the cold. We want to be integrated."

Julia Carrera, a Ukiah cannabis farm inspector, registered lobbyist and consultant to the Small Farmers' Association, a medical cannabis growers' support group, said she has already begun lobbying in Sacramento. She envisions bus loads of people going to the capitol demanding to save small farms and everything those farms represent. "I am a newborn lamb up there," Carrera said, "and they seem to be responding. Lobbying needs to come from a more vulnerable place." Willits City Councilmember Holly Madrigal, who is running for Third District Supervisor, said many of her constituents have expressed "real anxiety and fear about the price dropping. How are we going to survive?"

Kumin noted that a Rand Corporation study has predicted that the price of cannabis will drop 80 percent with legalization. He said that the Midwest could become like "the Budweiser of marijuana." One farmer responded that the climate in the Midwest is too cold, too rainy and too humid to grow marijuana and lacks Mendocino's ideal growing conditions. He said he favors the appellation regulation model used in wine industry, which would legally define and protect the geographical name, in this case Mendocino, where the cannabis is grown.

"I hope we can go with the appellation model because 350 plants is not sustainable with the kind of water we have," another audience member said. "Below a certain number a farmer should not have to be licensed." When one grower suggested indoor growers be allowed to grow 2,000 plants, another audience member countered: "Indoor is going to go away because it's not sustainable. We have to get our branding down and organize. The big farms will come to a close." A participant likened marijuana growers' cooperatives forming in Mendocino County to the "fair trade" movement's positive impact on small businesses in developing economies. "This is our little local culture. The co-op is the answer to capitalism."

Performance artist and writer Sherry Glaser, whose Mendocino cannabis dispensary, Love In It Cooperative, was raided in March and has now reopened, said she hopes the proposed medical cannabis regulations will protect "reciprocity" between states. Just as a physician's medication prescriptions from another state are recognized in most other states, so too, she said, should be a doctor's medical cannabis recommendation. (Since cannabis is on the federal government's Schedule 1 list of narcotics, doctors cannot legally prescribe marijuana.) Throughout the meeting speakers as well as growers referred to Colorado and Washington states, where "recreational" marijuana has recently been legalized.

The key to Colorado's success, Terrance Alan said before the meeting, was the state's adoption of medical marijuana regulations prior to the new legislation. Consequently, the transition to recreational use has moved much more easily. Kumin said later that Washington State had medical cannabis laws and regulations, but the governor vetoed most of them. The veto reduced safe access for patients and is the reason why Washington is still struggling with the interplay between medical and adult (recreational) use. "Medication versus recreation is a false dichotomy," one grower said. "We can't get railroaded into that. At base it's a spiritual thing." Lobbying and licensing efforts will also be the topic of a meeting at Dragonfly Dispensary & Wellness Center, 17851 N. Highway One, Fort Bragg, Weds., May 28, 7 p.m.


News Moderator - The General @ 420 MAGAZINE ®
Source: Advocate-news.com
Author: Jane Futcher
Contact: Contact Us - Ft. Bragg Advocate-News
Website: Licensing of medical cannabis imminent - Ft. Bragg Advocate-News
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