Deadline that triggered rash of marijuana bans removed from state law

A March 1 deadline that mistakenly appeared in the state’s new medical marijuana law – prompting almost every local city and dozens more throughout California to hurriedly pass sweeping bans – no longer applies.

Gov. Jerry Brown today signed into law Assembly Bill 21, an urgency measure that immediately removes the approaching deadline.

It’s the first of many clean-up bills expected to come in the wake of the complex Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which Brown signed Oct. 9. That act creates a licensing program and rules for related businesses, which have gone largely unregulated since Californians voted to legalize medical marijuana 20 years ago.

An earlier version of the act stated that if a city or county did not have ordinances in place by March 1 to either regulate or prohibit cultivation, the state would have sole authority to hand out licenses as that program rolls out in 2018.

Worried about losing local control and without time to get input on crafting new regulations, 29 of Orange County’s 34 cities have approved new or stricter bans on marijuana-related businesses in the past three months. And the other five said they already had bans that covered dispensaries, cultivation and delivery.

“Unfortunately cities were advised to act as fast as possible to ban activities of this industry because it was the easiest thing to do,” said Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, who authored AB 21.

Even Santa Ana, which is the only local city that allows dispensaries, voted Jan. 19 to ban all cultivation and delivery. And Laguna Woods, which allows patients and caregivers to grow small amounts of medical marijuana as permitted under state law, strengthened its ban Jan. 20 on commercial cultivation.

“I hope they will work as vigorously to stop and undo placeholder bans as they did to roll them out,” Wood said.

Some marijuana advocates have placed part of the blame for the rash of restrictions on the League of California Cities, which recommended outright bans over moratoriums or hastily crafted regulations.

“Our issue was preservation of local control,” said Tim Cromartie, a lobbyist for the League. “We advised our members on the most expedient, efficient way to preserve local control under pressure of the March 1 deadline.”

There’s no word on any local cities so far revisiting their bans in the wake of the deadline dissolving. But both Chico and Yreka, in North California, set aside votes this week on potential bans due to AB 21, according to local media reports. And Cromartie said Eureka and Grass Valley have made it clear that they intend to replace temporary cultivation bans with new regulations.

That’s good news to marijuana business owners like Aaron Herzberg of Costa Mesa-based CalCann Holdings, who’s been looking forward to a new era under the act, only to watch in frustration as the deadline error hampered that progress.

“Now that cities are no longer under the gun, I am hopeful that cities will adopt a more thoughtful approach,” Herzberg said.

Original Post: The OC Register

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