Legislator Announces Intent to Strike March 1, 2016 Deadline for Adopting Local Marijuana Regulation

In an open letter to local government leaders, Assembly Member Jim Wood announced that “an inadvertent drafting error” has caused local governments to “scramble” to enact local regulations permitting the commercial cultivation of medical cannabis by March 1, 2016, or turn that responsibility over to the state. On October 9, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown approved three bills (AB 243, AB 266 and SB 643) which establish a comprehensive state licensing system for the medical marijuana industry. The law, known as the “Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act” (“MMRSA”) directs the Department of Agriculture to license the cultivation of medical marijuana for commercial purposes, based on the size of plant canopy, in three permit tiers: under 5,000 square feet, under 10,000 square feet, and up to 22,000 square feet indoor (and with “mixed-light” cultivation) or up to 43,560 square feet outdoor. Licenses, which will be limited for the largest category of cultivation, will be available once state regulations are in place. Patients and caregivers may cultivate up to 100 square feet of canopy without a license. In addition to a state license, cultivation under the law requires a local permit, and nothing in the law overrides the ability of a local jurisdiction to prohibit cultivation.

In his letter, Assembly Member Wood clarified that it would be “many months” before the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation (BMMR) have the capacity to enforce the MMRSA. The March 1, 2016 deadline specified in the MMRSA “was inadvertently included in AB 243” even though this deadline was removed from the other bills enacting the MMRSA. Assembly Member Wood intends to introduce urgency legislation in January to strike the March 1 deadline, assuring local governments that there is no need to rush to put local regulations in place.

The law also directs the Department of Agriculture to give priority to any “facility or entity” that can demonstrate operation in good standing with the local jurisdiction on or before January 1, 2016. Some jurisdictions have already started taking applications for this priority status, and operators wishing to secure priority status are advised to confirm the documentation needed by the local jurisdiction to establish good standing before the end of the year.

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Categories: Articles, Land Use, Marijuana