Alameda County medical cannabis patients, they're coming for you. California's rash of medical pot bans continues to spread in 2016 and has now reached into the historic heartland of medical cannabis law reform.
Patients in places like the East Bay's Castro Valley could face new threats for growing even one medical pot plant indoors if a new, fast-moving county effort succeeds. Alameda County's lawyers recommended on January 6 that the board of supervisors ban any medical cannabis cultivation or deliveries in unincorporated areas by January 24.
In a letter to the board, county counsel Donna Ziegler wrote that patients growing a single plant and collectives delivering to the neediest should be banned and fined "in order to protect the environment and preserve the public peace, health, [and] safety."
Observers note that Alameda County's lawyers appear to have copied and pasted their arguments directly documents created by the pro-ban group, the League of California Cities. The league is openly telling cities that bans are "quickest, cleanest" form of regulation.
The league continues to point to a March 1 state deadline as a reason for cities and counties to ban medical cannabis activity, or run the risk of ceding local control to California regulators. Lawmakers have said that they will lift the deadline, but about sixty localities have enacted bans nonetheless.
Meanwhile, many cities and counties are now quickly moving to regulate cultivation, distribution, and sales, rather than enacting prohibitions. In fact, conservative battleground areas like Placer County and the cities of Riverside and Sacramento are proving to be more progressive than Alameda County right now, choosing regulations over bans. Petaluma has also protected personal cultivation. And according to reports, a cultivation ban failed in the Monterey County city of Marina.
In an effort to counteract the league, patient group Americans for Safe Access has announced a "Local Access Project" that patients can use to protect themselves. ASA has an online kit that includes a memo for local lawmakers, a model ordinance for local cultivation, information on the new regulations, campaign plan and fundraising tips, training materials for citizen lobbyists, and research and reports.
California NORML is also distributing an open letter to county boards of supervisors informing them that the March 1 deadline is not really a deadline. Last week, East Bay Assemblymember Rob Bonta introduced clean-up legislation to delete the March 1 deadline, and calm cities down.
And Governor Jerry Brown's office said he'll sign Bonta's bill. The governor released a new budget that calls for $24.6 million to fund the new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulations in 2016–2017. Several agencies or committees have begun scheduling public meetings about regulations. On Tuesday, January 19, a Joint Hearing of the Assembly's Business and Professions, Agriculture, and Health Committees will discuss implementing regulations.
California's leading marijuana legalization initiative received its official title and summary from the State of California and has reported $1.25 million in campaign financing. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) — from Dr. Donald O. Lyman, former chief of the Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Control at the California Department of Public Health, and Michael Sutton, former president of the California Fish and Wildlife Commission and former vice president of National Audubon Society — was cleared for signature gathering on January 6. The AUMA's title and summary calls it "Marijuana Legalization" and estimates it could generate up to $1 billion per year in state tax revenue, plus $100 million in court-cost savings.
The effort to pass AUMA will be funded by "Californians to Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana while Protecting Children," which reported $1.25 million in donations — vastly out-funding any other legalization group in California. The $1.25 million includes $500,000 from Silicon Valley tech billionaire Sean Parker, plus funds from dispensary directory company WeedMaps and leading drug law reform groups Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project.
The California NAACP endorsed AUMA earlier this month, while the California Growers Association has decided to remain neutral. Oaksterdam chancellor Dale Sky Jones has begun to openly oppose AUMA. Jones chairs the Oakland-based group ReformCA. But the ReformCA board is split, with most members defecting to support AUMA, including Oaksterdam founder and Proposition 19 architect Rich Lee.