Governor Brown Signs Bill to End Medical Marijuana Deadline

February 3, 2016 – Governor Jerry Brown has signed AB 21, an urgency measure introduced by Rep. Jim Wood that repeals a March 1 deadline in the new state medical marijuana law that some have interpreted as requiring local jurisdictions to ban or regulate medical marijuana cultivation, or lose their licensing authority.

Now that the March 1 deadline is repealed, Cal NORML is calling for all jurisdictions that are considering banning medical marijuana activities to instead table the issue, and for all cities and counties to work towards land use regulations to protect patients rights, as well as public safety and the environment.

“Thanks to Assemblyman Wood and Gov. Brown for clearing up this confusion and giving local governments time to develop thoughtful policies for regulation,” said Cal NORML director Dale Gieringer.

The state agencies charged with regulating commercial medical marijuana activities in the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) aren’t expected to issue permit applications until at least January 1, 2018, and state licenses will only be granted to those with local approval. However, a “drafting error” in MMRSA stated that cities and counties without medical marijuana ordinances on the books by March 1, 2016 would be governed by state law.

An estimated 150 cities and counties across California have subsequently banned medical marijuana cultivation, and more bans are pending. Some places have also banned delivery services, and dispensaries, leaving patients no safe access to their medicine. A few have made exceptions for personal cultivation, and others have regulated commercial cultivation, or moved to do so. Cal NORML is tracking post-MMRSA ordinances.

The League of Cities was instrumental in alerting its membership into crisis mode on the issue. At a January 19 hearing before the The California Assembly Business & Professions, Agriculture, & Health Committees, Tim Cromartie of the League said, “We knew promulgating bans was controversial, but developing meaningful regulation takes time,” indicating that there wasn’t time to do so before the March 1 deadline. “The bans will be temporary,” he added. The League supported AB 21.

Cal NORML is working on developing model ordinance proposals for urban and rural cities and counties.

“Driving marijuana cultivation and delivery back underground will only lead to crime and neighborhood problems,” said Ellen Komp, Deputy Director of Cal NORML. “Local officials have been calling for statewide regulation, and now that MMRSA is in place, it’s time to allow that regulation to work.”

Jacqueline McGowan of Monterey NORML, who started a Facebook group to track the pending bans that quickly attracted over 1300 members, said, “It is imperative that all activists across the state remain diligent in attending their city and county meetings in order to ensure that their local officials have all been informed of this wonderful news. Since there is no longer a sense of urgency to ban, we need to encourage our elected representatives to begin the process of implementing sensible regulations.”

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