Letters + Opinion » The Week in Weed

A Czar is Born


Not pictured: daughter Cannastasia.
  • Not pictured: daughter Cannastasia.

The hunt is on for California's marijuana czar (or czarina), with a whole new branch of state government waiting to be shaped by his or her hands.

Medical marijuana legislation recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will establish a new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulations under the Department of Consumer Affairs. (Depending on how you feel about the long-overdue package of laws, you might refer to it as a BuMMR or the BoMM.)

Heading this bureau will be a yet-to-be-named chief bureaucrat; the SF Chronicle's Joe Garofoli reports that the state is narrowing in on job qualifications. A representative of the Department of Consumer Affairs, which will hire for the position, said the job will be relatively straightforward, as state regulatory jobs go. The director will hire 40 to 50 people to staff the new bureau, write state policy and administer the new licensing scheme's rules. The post will pay up to $128,000 a year — which seems a relatively meager wage compared to other state and county salaries.

One consultant told the Chronicle that the new director will have to maintain a good balance between the 17 agencies enforcing new medical marijuana laws, the many facets of the medical marijuana industry, and the federal government, which still officially considers marijuana of no medicinal value.

Plus, the article points out, recreational marijuana is likely to reach California's ballot next year, meaning the new chief could be "either out of a job — or in line for an even bigger one regulating medical and recreational herb."

As the Journal went to press, the Humboldt County Planning Commission was meeting to finalize its recommendations for a large-parcel outdoor cultivation ordinance that's been the subject of dozens of hours of meetings over the last month. (The commission didn't meet the week of Thanksgiving — for the most recent updates, see "Humboldt's Specialty," Nov. 26.)

But in the most recent issue of EcoNews, Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jen Kalt wrote that the commission largely ignored the concerns of conservation and environmental groups. "It has become clear that the majority of Humboldt County Planning Commissioners wants to open the doors for expansion of the Green Rush," Kalt wrote.

While she praised the commission's recommendations to limit water trucking, she said other commission recommendations are poised to open the door to expanded environmental damage with the following missteps:

• No limit on the number of new grows that would be permitted;

• No limit on the overall number of permits;

• No limit on the number of permits per parcel;

• No limits on indoor cultivation relying on diesel and gas generators;

• No limit on the amount of Timber Production Zone or agricultural land that can be converted to marijuana cultivation;

• Large increases in the size of cultivation areas proposed in the draft ordinance.

Kalt also decried the lack of a "specialty" designation that would reward best practices on grow sites, and said the lack of limits on grows could put the law's mitigated negative declaration — which would ensure the law's compatibility with state environmental regulations — at risk of being inadequate.

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