Board of Supervisors appoints ad hoc committee to consider new state medical marijuana rules
LAKEPORT, Calif. – This week the Board of Supervisors voted to create an ad hoc committee to look at the potential impact of new state medical marijuana legislation on local rules.
Supervisor Anthony Farrington asked the board to be proactive and consider what changes may be needed with local regulations as a result of the governor’s signing in October of the State Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.
The act is a package of three pieces of legislation that was championed by Lake County’s representative in the state Senate, Sen. Mike McGuire.
The new legislation sets up a framework to regulate the various aspects of the commercial medical marijuana industry, and creates a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation under the Department of Consumer Affairs.
There also is the establishment of licensing and taxation, the requirement that medical marijuana businesses obtain local approval to continue operating and a provision that classifies marijuana as an agricultural product in California.
Farrington also asked for support for Assemblyman Jim Woods’ urgency legislation that would extend a March 1 deadline for having regulation in place by local jurisdictions.
With the growing season soon to start and the history of local referendums against attempts to regulate marijuana, Farrington said time is of the essence.
“I think we stand to lose significant revenues by not getting a taxing program implemented sooner than later,” as well as a permitting process to help fund the Community Development Department, he said.
Farrington initially proposed the ad hoc committee include two board members; Farrington himself wanted to be on the committee in addition to his suggestion of Supervisor Rob Brown, who this year chairs the Board of Supervisors.
Additionally, Farrington suggested Sheriff Brian Martin, Undersheriff Chris Macedo or a sheriff’s designee; Community Development Director Rick Coel; and District Attorney Don Anderson be included in the group.
During the course of the discussion, Farrington would suggest adding Agriculture Commissioner Steve Hajik and a Public Health representative, either Director Jim Brown or Dr. Karen Tait, the county’s health officer.
Farrington said he has been contacted by many individuals about public participation on the committee. “I’m hesitant to recommend an at-large or public individual given the history of this issue and how polarizing it is,” said Farrington, noting the added difficulty of deciding who to choose.
He said he wants to have the committee meet and bring back recommendations to the board, at which point the public can participate in the process.
Martin told Farrington that the committee was a great idea and he was happy to serve on it, but he wanted to get a general idea of what the board wanted to accomplish.
“Marijuana has always been a law enforcement issue,” Martin said. “We’re quickly coming to a period in time where it’s not going to be a law enforcement issue so much anymore. It’s going to take the public a long time to get used to that, and they’re going to continue to still call the sheriff’s department and want to know what’s going to happen with that.”
Martin also questioned if the board wanted to create its own local licensing agency or rely on the state for that function, adding that the didn’t think relying on the state in that particular was in Lake County’s best interest.
He also wanted to know if there will be budgetary support available to implement any programs the board decides to create, adding he doesn’t want to see deputies responding to calls to verify agricultural or transportation licenses.
Farrington agreed that “the greater the local control the better,” and that revenues the county might generate wouldn’t just be for Community Development but also for the sheriff’s office.
Martin said issues that would arise would go beyond permitting and licensing into the areas of ongoing monitoring and license checks.
“It’s already almost the wild, wild west out here right now with marijuana cultivation,” said Martin, adding he is glad the state is giving some framework.
He said he also likes the idea of local officials being able to decide what is best for Lake County, which he said is probably a lot different than what works for other counties.
Coel, who said he also appreciates the opportunity to serve on the committee, said the county’s current regulations – accepted by voters as Measure N in June 2014 – are contained in the county zoning code, so any proposed changes would need to go before the Lake County Planning Commission.
He thanked Farrington for bringing the matter forward. “There probably do need to be some revisions considered, and sooner rather than later.”
Hajik said he also was willing to serve, and noted he has concerns about his staff having to respond to marijuana-related complaints due to safety.
Anderson said he, too, would serve but encouraged the board to include a few members of the community. Additionally he suggested that they may want to consider including someone who has knowledge of implementing new taxation.
In separate actions, the board voted unanimously to support Woods’ special legislation to extend the March 1 deadline and approved the ad hoc committee with the updated membership proposal including the additional department heads.