By DANNY YOEONO
MARTINEZ, Calif. – Marijuana cultivation faces another city choice of banishment or regulation.
Martinez will also need to choose whether or not to ban or regulate medical cannabis delivery services. From a legal standpoint, if the city were to ban cultivation, the state law that allows it does not trump the city ordinance. Last May, the City Council passed the ordinance that banned outdoor growing. The County of Contra Costa has banned both outdoor and indoor cultivation.
The City Council Public Safety Subcommittee, composed of Councilmembers Debbie McKillop and AnaMarie Avila Farias, Assistant City Attorney John Abaci and Chief of Police Manjit Sappal, met on Feb. 8 to address the passing of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act that was enacted on Sept. 11, 2015, but went into effect Jan. 1 of this year. The bill creates a comprehensive state licensing system for the commercial cultivation, manufacture, retail sale, transport, distribution, delivery, and testing of medical cannabis, but all licenses must also be approved by local governments if the local government has a licensing scheme in place.
That bill established a new Bureau of Medical Marijuana under the Department of Consumer Affairs. This bureau is to establish a comprehensive internet system for keeping track of licenses and reporting the movement of commercial cannabis and cannabis products. Additionally, various state departments will have added responsibilities in areas such as regulating cultivation, developing standards for manufacture, testing, and production and labeling of edibles, developing pesticide standards and protecting water quality. It estimated it will take the state an additional year after the law is enacted to set up the necessary agencies, information systems and regulations to actually begin issuing licenses.
The city needs to pass legislation that deals with cultivation and delivery, two areas currently not under a city ordinance. If the city does not establish policy in these two areas in time, all licensing power will go to the state.
Under current city ordinance, outdoor cultivation is banned and a strict scheme is in place that allows dispensaries.
In the interim, local governments may choose to adopt new ordinances to permit or license local businesses in preparation for state licensing. Martinez Chief of Police, Manjit Sappal, outlined three options for both medical cannabis cultivation and medical cannabis delivery.
Option one for indoor cultivation would be an ordinance that follows in the steps of the existing state law on indoor cultivation, Health and Safety Code 11362.77(a). It would allow qualified patients to cultivate no more than six mature or 12 immature plants and possess no more than 8 ounces of dried marijuana.
Option two would be to adopt an ordinance mimicking that of the city of Rancho Cordova. They have a licensing system in place that allows indoor cultivation under particular guidelines that allows up to 25 feet of indoor cultivation.
Other restrictions include that the grower must be at least 18, a resident, have permission from the homeowner, and a permit from the city. Specific standards in regard to the growing space include that the site of the plants must be in a single family dwelling, inaccessible to children, and have proper ventilation as to prevent noxious odors from affecting neighbors. A cultivator must have consent from the police on top of their city permit, which expires every two years.
Sales of marijuana grown from personal indoor cultivation would be prohibited.
Option three would be an outright ban on indoor cultivation.
In terms of delivery, Sappal gave another three options.
Option one would be a ban on deliveries. Deliveries would not be able start or end in Martinez. The city does not have the authority to ban deliveries that simply pass through the city boundaries en route to another city.
Option two would be to allow all transportation of medical marijuana when conducted by a qualified medical marijuana provider or their delivery service bringing medical marijuana to qualified patients.
Option three would allow deliveries that originate outside the city limits but deliveries that begin inside Martinez would be prohibited.
Medical marijuana patients’ rights were at the forefront of the discussion when a resident voiced, “How is the patient supposed to get their medicine?”
Councilwoman Avila Farias acknowledged the sound reasons for medical marijuana.
One resident voiced their concern that additional bans would drive marijuana further underground, increasing illicit activity in our town.
Don Duncan, the California director of Americans For Safe Access claimed that regulations were shown to reduce crime and complaints. Duncan also asserted that deliveries showed no evidence of being dangerous and are in fact a life line for suffering patients who cannot make the trip to Berkeley to pick up their medicine.
In the public minority, at least verbally, a resident expressed concern about burglars breaking into homes in search of marijuana plants. The resident expressed the view that all cultivation should be banned.
Councilwoman Debbie McKillop brought up that with regulation comes quality control, which would benefit the patients. That is, the patient would not have to worry about where the marijuana came from or if it was laced with anything else.
To which one resident replied, “What’s the best way to know a tomato is non-GMO, pesticide free, organic?”
The answer: grow it yourself.
The public safety subcommittee agreed to meet more often, roughly once a month and to bring to the full City Council unbiased educational material that would benefit the council’s decision making.