The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) was passed in September of last year to create a comprehensive state licensing system for the commercial cultivation, manufacture, retail sale, transport, distribution, delivery and testing of medical cannabis. As the State of California moves forward with these regulations, cities and counties have begun to pass cannabis ordinances, especially cultivation bans. Below we outline just how prevalent they are and offer suggestions for taking the proper steps to prevent such a ban where you live.
Unfortunately, how and why California local jurisdictions are passing cultivation bans rather than developing regulations could be due to the now repealed MMRSA March 1 deadline for cities and counties to put their own medical marijuana cultivation regulations in place before granting the Department of Food and Agriculture sole licensing authority for medical marijuana cultivation applicants.
According to California NORML, there were over 400 localities where cultivation bans had been passed or been proposed as of February 17, 2016.
“Local laws are changing quickly. If you’re not paying attention, cultivation could be legal one week and illegal the next.” ~ Attorney Katie Podein, California Cannabis Law Group
One such municipality is the City of Antioch. In January, the City proposed a ban to prohibit the cultivation of any quantity of medical cannabis. At the Council’s final meeting before casting their vote, only one resident stood before them to propose that voters have the final say. The ban was voted in by the City Council and is now incorporated into Antioch’s Municipal Code, making the ban a civil matter instead of a criminal one.
The reasons for the ban included: 1) ‘to curtail the theft that marijuana grows often attract along with the violence that can erupt when the plants’ owners confront burglars’ and 2) ‘to avoid complaints from neighbors offended by the smell that growing plants emit.’*
That one Antioch resident who spoke up, known simply as “Patient J.K.” in the recent lawsuit brought by him against the City of Antioch, has a doctor’s recommendation to use medical cannabis to relieve the side effects from the medications he takes to treat HIV, Hepatitis C and severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and had been cultivating his own medical marijuana at his residence. Not only did his personal medical cannabis grow help with his symptoms, it was most cost-effective and it let him avoid transporting medical marijuana in his vehicle-something he strongly desired. Prior to the ban, personal cultivation by a qualified patient or caregiver was allowed within Antioch city limits.
Advocacy begins locally. Should your city or county be considering a ban on medical cannabis cultivation, advocate for better ways to regulate cannabis that will work for both patients and residents.
- Review the list of cities and counties already on the CAL NORML list and provide updated information to CAL NORML, as they are tracking this activity
- Check your local city and county leadership websites for marijuana topics on upcoming meeting agendas
- Follow local press stories
- Talk with friends and neighbors and encourage them to become involved
- Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper
- Should your local city council or county supervisors be considering a ban:
- Connect with your local elected officials to let them know where you stand regarding the ban and why
- Attend meetings when cannabis is a topic of discussion, especially should a ban be on the agenda
- Consider these talking points developed by CAL NORML
- Fight for your rights; request a voter initiative and get signatures
According to the California Cannabis Law Group’s Katie Podein, legal counsel to Patient J.K., “There’s no evidence by Antioch City Council that personal cultivation of medical marijuana constitutes a nuisance or endangers the health, safety and welfare of the public in Antioch.”
The deadline repeal (AB 21) offers an opportunity for jurisdictions considering a ban to instead table the issue and to develop land use regulations that protect patients’ rights as well as public safety. However, that may not be the course of action taken by your local city or county.
“Having the March 1 deadline was a mistake, but the damage has already been done,” said Podein. “Local laws are changing quickly. If you’re not paying attention, cultivation could be legal one week and illegal the next.”
“There’s no new deadline for cities and counties to act on this now,” said Podein. “And, there are better ways to regulate cannabis that make sense for both residents and authorities.”
We wish Patient J.K. the best and hope that the lawsuit helps convince the City of Antioch to make changes so he can continue to medicate with his own personally grown medical cannabis.