Letters + Opinion » The Week in Weed

What Deadline?



A University of California San Francisco think tank released a study based on proposed marijuana legalization ballot measures that warns of a corporate takeover of the marijuana industry that could have negative public health effects.

The report, which comes from the university's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, says legalization — the most prominent effort for which is being funded by tech billionaire Sean Parker — is likely to lead to big money flowing into Sacramento to lobby for the newly legal industry.

That, in turn, the report says, could threaten public health efforts — much like the strategies undertaken by Big Tobacco to ease regulations and sell more products. Calling corporate marijuana an already "potent lobbyist," the report's co-author told the Sacramento Bee that a marijuana ballot measure's "goal (should be) to legalize it so that nobody gets thrown in jail, but create a legal product that nobody wants."

Countering the report, a spokesperson for the Parker-backed ballot measure said the law being drafted contains public health protections, as well as anti-monopoly measures.

Two days after the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors passed a comprehensive outdoor medical marijuana cultivation ordinance — an effort of superbureaucratic speed — state lawmakers lifted the deadline that led to the county's mad rush.

Assemblyman Jim Wood announced on Jan. 28 that his emergency legislation, lifting a March 1 deadline for local jurisdictions to enact pot laws or cede all regulatory control to the state, has been approved by both the Senate and Assembly. All that remains is a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislate-by date will be removed.

"I am not advocating for or against a particular position on medical cannabis," Wood said in the release. "I am advocating for local elected officials to take the time to engage in a process that results good public policy, not knee jerk reactions."

The local ordinance's drafters always took the deadline seriously, even as it became more and more apparent the Legislature was making good on its promise to remove the time restriction. Throughout the process, which saw dozens of hours of planning commission and supervisors' meetings, and untold hours of staff time, the drafters lamented the short timeline, all but acknowledging that the ordinance could have been better with more time to work on it.

But the ordinance is not carved into stone — it goes into effect at the end of February, and supervisors can amend it as they see fit. Perhaps embracing the deadline was a boon — motivation for the county to finally address Humboldt's outdoor grow scene decades after Proposition 215 passed.

And Humboldt County's measure is far more comprehensive than outright bans that have been sweeping city and county jurisdictions, including Fortuna. The League of California Cities, apparently, was advocating that city governments pass bans as a means to hold on to local control, surmising that it would be easier to lift them than to impose stricter rules later. Those efforts were likely the target of Wood's "knee jerk" admonishments.

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