Bell Gardens ‘Estudia’ Opciones para Regular el Cannabis

October 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Con solo tres meses hasta que el uso recreativo de la marijuana se vuelva legal en California, ciudades como Bell Gardens deben decidir si quieren beneficiarse de la legalización de la droga.

A partir del 1º de enero del 2018, la ley estatal legalizara el uso cultivo y fabricación de marijuana recreativa, pero las ciudades aún tienen la capacidad de regular.

En la reunión del Concejo Municipal de Bell Gardens el lunes, la consejera Jennifer Rodríguez fue clara en su postura al respeto de este tema.2 WEB-Pot plant

“Debemos prohibir todo uso de marijuana recreativa y medica” en la ciudad, dijo Rodríguez en frustración. “¿Por que seguimos discutiendo este tema?”

Se refería a un informe de “sesión de estudio” presentado por el personal de la ciudad que exploraba las opciones de Bell Gardens relacionadas con la venta o fabricación de marijuana recreativa en la ciudad.

Mientras que el consejo no estaba programado para tomar ninguna acción formal, y no lo hizo, el personal esperaba obtener orientación sobre cómo proceder en preparación para el cambio inmanente en la ley estatal.

En agosto del 2016, Bell Gardens adoptó una prohibición total de cultivar y entregar marijuana medicinal en la ciudad. En ese momento, Abel Avalos, director de desarrollo comunitario de Bell Gardens, le dijo a EGP que las nuevas medidas dan a Bell Gardens nuevas herramientas para regular las actividades, que comenzaron a aparecer con mayor frecuencia a pesar de la prohibición de la ciudad del 2007 de dispensarios de marijuana medicinal.

El mes pasado, Avales le dijo a EGP durante una entrevista telefónica que en ese entonces no había un plan formal para cambiar las ordenanzas municipales prohibiendo el establecimiento de negocios relacionados con la marijuana, pero añadió que el personal de la ciudad continuaba estudiando todos los impactos potenciales en la ciudad, incluyendo la posibilidad de ingresos adicionales.

Ciudades cercanas como Maywood, Bellflower, Huntington Park y Los Ángeles están optando por beneficiarse de una u otra manera del cambio de ley. Estas y otras ciudades del sur de California están explorando, o ya han adoptado, medidas para permitir el cultivo, fabricación, pruebas y/o ventas de marijuana recreativa, por una cuota o imponiendo un impuesto sobre la actividad.

A partir de ahora, Vernon y Commerce, dos ciudades altamente industriales con grandes almacenes, prohíben toda actividad relacionada con la marijuana en sus ciudades.

En la actualidad, el “Código Municipal de Vernon establece una prohibición general sobre cualquier negocio relacionado con marijuana dentro de los límites de la ciudad”, dijo Lilia Hernández, asistente ejecutiva del administrador de la ciudad a EGP el mes pasado en un correo electrónico.

Dijo que la ciudad es consciente de que el cambio en la ley estatal ha aumentado el interés en el tema, “y como tal, el personal de la ciudad está revisando la información sobre los impactos potenciales asociados con permitir los negocios de marijuana”, no hay “cronología para sí/cuando la posición de la ciudad puede cambiar, ya que es necesario para que nos aseguremos de que todos los impactos potenciales (positivos y negativos) han sido cuidadosamente considerados”.

En septiembre, la Comisión de Planificación de Montebello aprobó una ordenanza que, si fuera adoptada por el ayuntamiento, permitiría que las empresas de fabricación y prueba de cannabis se abrieran en áreas zonificadas para uso industrial ya al menos 600 pies de una escuela. Los dispensarios seguirían estando prohibidos.

Los residentes se quejaron de que la ordenanza propuesta impulsaría a las empresas relacionadas con la marijuana a ubicarse en el sur de California, una ciudad con ingresos bajos, protegiendo a los residentes más ricos de la ciudad de cualquier impacto negativo, como el aumento de la delincuencia, que podría provenir de las operaciones de cannabis en la ciudad.

La sesión de estudio del lunes en Bell Gardens tenía la intención de darle al ayuntamiento información sobre como la ciudad podría verse afectada por el cambio en la ley estatal. El fiscal municipal adjunto de la ciudad, John W. Lam, explico al consejo que muchas otras ciudades están replanteando su posición debido a los posibles ingresos que se obtendrán. Aunque no se proporcionó un número exacto, Bell Gardens puede beneficiarse de licencias y permisos, ventas directas de marijuana recreativa e imponer impuestos adicionales, según Lam.

Rodríguez, sin embargo, instó al consejo a pensar más sobre los niños y los jóvenes en la comunidad, en lugar de cualquier nuevo dinero potencial para las arcas de la ciudad.

“Ninguna cantidad de dinero vale el bienestar de nuestros hijos”, dijo Rodríguez.

El alcalde José J. Mendoza está de acuerdo en que cualquier posición a favor del uso recreativo de marijuana afectara a los niños, pero dijo que él y el consejo tienen que decidir qué es lo mejor para la ciudad.

Mendoza, quien enseña en la Escuela Intermedia de Bell Gardens, le dijo a EGP que ve el efecto que la marijuana tiene en su comunidad y la generación más joven. Explicó que mientras que la ciudad tenga la responsabilidad de proporcionar un ambiente seguro para los residentes, también incumbe a los padres educar a sus hijos sobre los peligros del uso de la marijuana.

“Lo olemos ahora y se va a poner peor”, dijo Mendoza. “Es un dilema moral que siento que tenemos que seguir mirando y continuar dialogando”, dijo Mendoza.

El consejo fue presentado con diferentes opciones de regulación para considerar: una prohibición completa de negocios relacionados con cannabis, o seguir lo que algunas otras ciudades han hecho y adoptar una moratoria o prohibición temporal de los negocios.

Una moratoria requeriría un voto a favor por 4 de los 5 concejales. En esencia, le daría a la ciudad tiempo para mirar las opciones sin tomar una posición firme. Una moratoria puede durar hasta dos meses y es algo que Lam dijo que el consejo debería considerar.

“Es (el uso de la marijuana) un tema sensible que debe ser examinado completamente”, dijo Lam.

A partir de ahora, no hay fecha establecida para que el ayuntamiento actúe sobre las recomendaciones.

Gloria Álvarez, editora gerente de EGP, contribuyó a esta historia. 

 

State’s Cannabis Web Page Offers Health and Safety

September 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

With just three months until the recreational use of marijuana becomes legal in California, state public health officials are hoping their “Let’s Talk Cannabis” web page will encourage residents to think twice before they consume, and if they do, to understand there could be some risks.

The California Department of Public Health “engaged in extensive conversations with stakeholders in California and partners in other states with legalized cannabis to target the most vulnerable populations and apply their lessons learned,” said CDPH health director, Dr. Karen Smith.

“We are committed to providing Californians with science-based information to ensure safe and informed choices.”

The health agency’s web page is part of a statewide campaign to educate the public about what’s legal in California and the potential health impacts of cannabis use.

Effective Jan. 1, 2018, its will be legal for adults 21 and older to possess, consume and cultivate marijuana. It will also be legal to sell marijuana at retail outlets where permitted by local ordinance. Marijuana dispensaries will also continue to be permitted.

SB 94, the legislation legalizing recreational consumption, included funding for the state to conduct outreach and education to consumers.

“We are committed to providing Californians with science-based information to ensure safe and informed choices,” said Smith.

To that end, the web page includes information pertaining to:

—The scientific basis for restricting access of cannabis and cannabis products for persons under the age of 21 years;

—The penalties for providing access to cannabis and cannabis products to persons under the age of 21 years;

—The potential harms of using cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding; and

—The potential harms of overusing cannabis or cannabis products.

According to Smith, the CDPH will continue to incorporate the latest data available into public messages to increase awareness about how cannabis affects bodies, minds and health.

On the CDPH’s website, individuals can find information about legal, safe and responsible use, and health information for youth, pregnant and breastfeeding women, parents and mentors, and health care providers. There is also information about how to safely purchase and store cannabis for personal use.

For additional information, visit the Let’s Talk Cannabis web page.

Los Angeles Propone Regular a la Marijuana

September 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Un comité del Consejo Municipal de la Ciudad de Los Angeles aprobó una versión preliminar de nuevas regulaciones sobre la industria del canabis entre preocupaciones — las cuales el Presidente del Consejo Herb Wesson prometió contestar — que las nuevas reglas propuestas podrían causar la pérdida de negocios de los proveedores.

Docenas de representantes de la industria asistieron a la junta del Comité de Reglas, Elecciones, y Relaciones Intergubernamentales, con muchos diciendo que las reglas como se han establecido, podrán resultar en un retraso para los cultivadores y fabricantes en obtener una licencia para participar legalmente en la comercialización de marijuana para el uso recreativo en 1 de enero.

No mucho después de empezar la junta, Wesson le dijo al público que estaba familiarizado con la preocupación y estaba buscando una manera de contestarla, con una opción siendo un sistema de permisos provisionales. También dijo que buscaban la aprobación por parte de la Oficina del Abogado Municipal de el “75 al 80 porciento” de las reglas en cuales todos aparentemente estaban de acuerdo.

“No voy a esperar y luego estar ansioso  por la falta de tiempo cuando tratamos de alcanzar la fecha de límite. Si, por lo menos, podemos echar andar (la Oficina del Abogado), Escucharé a sus preocupaciones, y trataremos de resolverlas de alguna manera también”, Wesson dijo.

Wesson también dijo que preocupaciones sobre la prohibición de consumo en los lugares de venta establecida por las nuevas reglas serían contestadas después de una investigación por la ciudad.

En noviembre, votantes de California aprobaron a la legalización de marijuana recreativa, efectivo el 1 de enero, 2018.

La industria legalizada podría proveer a la ciudad a más de $100 millones anuales en nuevos ingresos por los impuestos, y en marzo Angelinos aprobaron a la Medida M, que establece medidas regulatorias para la industria en la ciudad.

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Una vez implementada, Medida M reemplace a la Propuesta D, que fue aprobada en 2013 por votantes de la ciudad y limitó el número de dispensarios dentro los parámetros de Los Angeles a 135 — el número de dispensarios operando antes del 14 de septiembre, 2007

Las regulaciones preliminares adelantadas por el comité resumen el proceso por cual pueden recibir un permiso municipal los dueños de mercados, tiendas, cultivadores, fabricantes y otros negocios dentro de la industria para operar — requerido además de un permiso estatal — igual que las reglas de operación.

Las reglas otorgan permisos con prioridad a negocios que recibieron un certificado de registración como negocio después de 2014 y que han operado de acuerdo a la inmunidad limitada y provisiones de impuestos de la Propuesta D.

La Ciudad también está desarrollando un programa de equidad social que busca incrementar la participación de empresas minoritarias en la industria, y las reglas propuestas dictan que ninguna aplicación para permiso será aceptada hasta que el programa de equidad social es aprobado.

Ellen Mellody, vocera de la Coalición del Sur de California (Southern California Coalition), un grupo que representa empresarios de la industria, estimó que como resultado del proceso de prioridad y la falta de aprobación para el programa de equidad social, sería hasta abril lo más pronto que recibirán permisos los proveedores de canabis.

Aunque la ciudad ha permitido la operación de dispensarios de marijuana medicinal, nunca ha permitido específicamente a los cultivadores y vendedores operar dentro de la ciudad, y Mellody dijo que esto los podría dejar sin permisos el 1 de enero, lo cual podrá acabar con sus empresas mientras los dispensarios buscan comprar su producto legalmente de proveedores fuera de la ciudad.

“La ciudad ha actuado como si el aspecto legal de la industria es solamente el último destino osea las tienda o dispensarios. Las macetas no se cultivan solas. No se suben a las camionetas o se envuelven en paquetes solos”, Mellody dijo a City News Service. “Es absurdo pensar ‘Oh, la tienda es legal. Y no [pensar] en como llegó el producto ahí”’.

Mellody también dijo que hay muchos proveedores “confiables” en la ciudad con cual muchos de los dispensarios ya tienen relaciones largas, y que los dueños de las tiendas prefieren no tener que buscar nuevos proveedores fuera de la ciudad.

Wesson dijo que consideraba una manera de otorgar un permiso o licencia provisional mientras la ciudad tramitaba las aplicaciones.

“Son los fragmentos de una idea la cual tengo suelto en mi mente ahorita, entonces algo aparecido. No lo he elaborado completamente todavía”, Wesson dijo a una persona del público quien propuso un sistema de permisos provisionales.

Las reglas de operación también prohibirán el consumo de marijuana en los sitios de compra, establecerán la hora de operación para los vendedores, exigirán la presencia de cameras de seguridad y obligarán a las tiendas contratar a un equipo de seguridad o emplear a un guardia de seguridad.

Consumo en los sitios de venta sería permitido por ley estatal a partir del 2018 si el gobierno municipal lo permite. Mellody dijo que la SCC se preocupaba por la prohibición de consume pero la cuestión no era tan importante como otros sobre cuales buscaba resolución de inmediato.

Bruce Margolin, director executivo del capítulo de Los Angeles de la Organización Nacional para la Reforma de Leyes sobre Marijuana  dijo que la prohibición de consumo dejaría a algunos consumidores sin lugar en donde usar el canabis, ya que muchos hoteles y edificios de departamentos prohíben el fumar y que el consumo tampoco sería permitido en público.

“La condición actual con el negar del consumo en los negocios donde se consigue significa que no tendrán en donde ir si no son dueños de una residencia o no tienen acceso a una residencia, lo cual es injusto”, Margolin dijo.

Semejante a su respuesta a cuestiones sobre los permisos, Wesson dijo que conocía las preocupaciones causadas por la prohibición del consumo en las tiendas y que el equipo de la ciudad iba responder sobre opciones, incluyendo las maneras en cual otras ciudades lo han resuelto.

“Entienda que no está en el quemador posterior y que estamos haciendo todo lo que se puede y me da orgullo haber llegado a donde estamos. Solo quiero que sepan que sus recomendaciones no caen en oidos sordos”, Wesson dijo a Margolin.

L.A. Moving In On Marijuana Regs

September 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A Los Angeles City Council committee approved a draft of new regulations for the cannabis industry Monday amid concerns — which Council President Herb Wesson pledged to address — that the proposed rules could drive suppliers out of business.

Dozens of representatives of the industry attended the meeting of the Rules, Elections, and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, with many saying that the guidelines as they stand could cause a delay in cultivators and manufacturers getting licensed before marijuana becomes legal for recreational sale and use on Jan. 1.

Not long after the meeting began, Wesson told the audience he was aware of the issue and was working on a way to address it, with one option possibly being a provisional license system. He also said he wanted to get the City Attorney’s Office working to vet the part of the “75 percent to 80 percent” of the guidelines that everyone seemed to agree on.

“I’m not going to wait and then be panicked for time when we attempt to make this deadline. So at least if we can get (the City Attorney’s Office) moving, I’ll listen to your concerns, and we will try and come up with a way to address that, as well,” Wesson said.

Wesson also said concerns over a ban of on-site consumption that the guidelines call for would be addressed later as the city studies the issue.

In November, California voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

The legalized industry could fetch the city more than $100 million annually in new tax revenue, and in March city voters approved Measure M, which sets up regulatory measures for the city’s industry.

Once implemented, Measure M will replace Proposition D, which was approved in 2013 by city voters and limited the number of dispensaries within Los Angeles city limits to 135 — the number of dispensaries operating before Sept. 14, 2007.

The draft regulations moved forward by the committee outline the process for retail shop owners, growers, manufacturers and other industry businesses to receive a city license to operate — which will be needed along with a state license — as well as rules for operating.

The guidelines give priority licensing to existing shops that received a business tax registration certificate after 2014 and that are operating in compliance with the limited immunity and tax provisions of Prop D.

The city is also developing a social equity program aimed at increasing minority participation in the industry, and the proposed guidelines state that no license applications will be accepted until the social equity program is approved.

Ellen Mellody, a spokeswoman for the Southern California Coalition, an industry trade group, estimated that as a result of the priority process and the social equity program not being finalized, it would be April at the earliest that suppliers could get a license.

While the city has allowed retail medical marijuana shops to operate in the city, it has never expressly allowed cultivators or manufacturers to operate, and Mellody said this could leave them without a license come Jan. 1, which will drive many out of business as shops look to buy their products legally from suppliers outside of the city.

Recreational use, retail sale, manufacturing and personal cultivation of marijuana become legal in California on Jan.1, 2018. Cities across the state are rushing to put regulations in place before the New Year.

Recreational use, retail sale, manufacturing and personal cultivation of marijuana become legal in California on Jan.1, 2018. Cities across the state are rushing to put regulations in place before the New Year.

“The city has only acted like the legal part of this industry is the back-end retail shops. The plants don’t grow themselves. They don’t get into a truck and package themselves,” Mellody told City News Service. “It’s absurd to think, ‘Oh, the shop is legal. We don’t know how the product got here.”’

Mellody also said there are many “trusted” suppliers in the city with which the retail shops have longstanding relationships, and that shop owners don’t want to have to find new suppliers outside of the city.

Wesson said he was considering a way for suppliers to get a provisional license as the city processes applications.

“That’s the fragments of an idea that I am kicking around my mind right now, and so something like that. I haven’t quite sorted it out yet,” Wesson said to a speaker who called for a provisional license system.

The guidelines would also ban the on-site consumption of marijuana, set the hours that a shop could be open, require the presence of security cameras and also require shops to hire or contract for security personnel.

On-site consumption would be allowed by state law starting in 2018, if the local city allows it. Mellody said the SCC was concerned about the on-site ban but it is an issue that is not as important as some others it was looking to immediately address.

Bruce Margolin, executive director of the L.A. chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the on-site ban would leave some consumers without a place to use cannabis, since many hotels and apartment buildings ban smoking and that consumption also would not be allowed in public.

“The current status with denying on-site consumption means that they have no place to go unless they own a residence or have access to a residence, which is completely unfair,” Margolin said.

As he did with licensing, Wesson said he was aware of the issues a ban of on-site consumption could cause and that city staff would be reporting back on options, including how other cities are handling the issue.

“Know that it is not on the back burner and we are doing as much as we can and I’m proud of where we are. And I just want you to know that your recommendations don’t fall on deaf ears,” Wesson told Margolin.

Vernon Checkpoint Nets 5 Arrests

September 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A DUI/Drivers License Checkpoint conducted in the city of Vernon resulted in 5 arrests, according to the Vernon Police Department.

Officers with the police department’s traffic unit were looking for drunk motorists, but also hoped their presence would serve as a deterrence to driving intoxicated, said the department in a written statement.

Close to 1,100 cars drove through the checkpoint – located at Santa Fe Avenue and 38th Street — between 6:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 26. Police said they screened 709 vehicles and cited 23 drivers for operating an unlicensed vehicle; 4 drivers were cited or arrested for driving with a suspended license, and 5 drivers were investigated for DUI. Police also arrested one driver for a DUI warrant and driving without an ignition interlock device.

Checkpoints are conducted in locations where there is the “greatest opportunity for achieving drunk and drugged driving deterrence and provide the greatest safety for officers and the public,” police said, citing California’s “disturbing increase in drug-impaired driving crashes.” Vernon police support “the new effort from the Office of Traffic Safety that aims to educate all drivers that ‘DUI Doesn’t Just Mean Booze,’” it could also mean marijuana, the department said.

“Vernon PD will continue to enforce DUI related offenses in our ongoing commitment to lowering deaths and injuries upon our streets and highways.”

County Working to Shut Down Illegal Marijuana Dispensaries

April 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Lawyers for Los Angeles County recommended a “surge strategy’’ Tuesday to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries operating illegally in the face of a ban in effect in unincorporated areas.

The county’s legal team told the Board of Supervisors that they had closed 60 dispensaries between 2011-16 and another 31 after the board asked for a crackdown in March 2016.

Enforcement is pending against another 49 dispensaries and lawyers are prepping to force 26 more to close. That would account for all the marijuana retailers identified by the county to date, though new shops continue to pop up.

County counsel estimated that it would take four to six months to close the remaining 75 on the county’s hit list if more county lawyers were hired to team up with the District Attorney’s Office.

“County Counsel and the District Attorney recommend an aggressive, uniform and expeditious enforcement ‘surge strategy’ against illegal MMDs (medical marijuana dispensaries),” lead counsel Mary Wickham wrote in a letter to the board.

Though a county ban on dispensaries has been in place since 2011, enforcing a zero-tolerance policy has proven difficult.

Dispensaries shut down and then open up under different names, creating a game of “whack-a-mole” for enforcement agencies, said Lance Wong, head deputy of the district attorney’s Major Narcotics Division.

The lucrative nature of the business means that entrepreneurs fight hard to keep their dispensaries open, with some filing civil suits against the county. Wong said another problem is that some people mistakenly believe that dispensaries are legal everywhere.

In addition to bringing the hammer down on dispensaries, the county has banned cultivation and distribution of marijuana in unincorporated areas. That ordinance is set to expire in June, but county counsel said it would be rolled into a new regulation.

Landlords are also prohibited by county law from renting to dispensaries.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger said it was tough for landlords to turn down the premiums being offered by some would-be dispensary operators and stressed the importance of educating property owners.

Barger also highlighted public safety concerns that surround dispensaries that operate as all-cash businesses, reminding colleagues of an dispensary employee murdered in her district.

Supervisor Hilda Solis echoed that concern and also worried aloud about dispensaries near schools.

Many residents agreed. “This has to stop. We are overpopulated with these stores. There’s at

least 50 within a five-mile radius,” East Los Angeles resident Jeseus Huertas told the board. “We need some regulations.”

Supervisor Janice Hahn said she’d like to see more enforcement in her district, which stretches along the South Bay and then along the border with Orange County out to Diamond Bar.

“There’s a ban. They’re illegal. They ought to be shut down,” Hahn said.

Recent enforcement has focused on Solis’ First District, which runs from downtown Los Angeles east to Pomona and south to South Gate. Twenty-five of the 31 dispensaries shut down in the last year were in those neighborhoods.

The county crackdown comes as other jurisdictions seek to profit from the statewide legislation of recreational marijuana, approved by voters in November.

Recreational sales will not begin under the new law until January, but some residents and business owners urged the county to focus on licensing and regulating dispensaries rather than banning them.

“If the goal is to maximize the transition from the illicit market to the regulated market, then we should try and figure out how to transition some of these operators,” said Cat Packer, California policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance. “We need a surge of economic opportunities for communities.”

Under the state law, local jurisdictions can only ban commercial activities and outdoor cultivation, something county lawyers are preparing to do.

“Why continue to wage a battle that you obviously are losing?,” resident David Green asked the board. “Almost 60 percent of the voters thought recreational use was fine.”

Other advocates stressed the drug’s medicinal value.

“Cannabis is an exit drug (for me),” said Alexis D’Angelo of Women Grow Los Angeles. D’Angelo called the drug life-saving, telling the board she was able to wean herself off six pharmaceutical drugs and stay away from alcohol by substituting marijuana.

The report by county counsel required no vote by the board and no action was taken.

The county has set up an anonymous tip line, residents can call (213) 974-6453 to report dispensaries.

 

Recreational Marijuana Legalized in California: What You Need to Know

November 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – At the stroke of midnight Nov. 8, recreational use of marijuana became legal in California – but there are a few important details about the new law 7.

It now is legal for adults age 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana or eight grams of concentrated cannabis for personal use. People can carry that amount around, but if they’re in a car it must be in a locked container.

Dale Gieringer, director of the California chapter of the National Organization for Reforming Marijuana Laws (NORML), said there are limits on how much people are allowed to grow.

“They can also grow up to six plants at their residence in a secure, locked location,” he said, “preferably indoors, but outdoors in locations that permit it.”

Use of medical marijuana continues as before. Retail sales of recreational marijuana won’t be allowed until state-licensed businesses open their doors in January 2018.

Gieringer said it’s important to note that lighting up in public is still a no-no.

“People should also beware that there is no public use allowed,” he said, “so, no smoking or consumption of any sort of marijuana in a public place. You have to do it privately; and no smoking or even vaping in nonsmoking areas.”

It also is illegal to smoke or vaporize marijuana at or within 1,000 feet of a daycare or school, except in a private residence that happens to be near those types of facilities.

More information about Proposition 64 from the California Secretary of State’s office is online at voterguide.sos.ca.gov.

 

Prop 64 Would Legalize, Tax Marijuana for Recreational Use

November 3, 2016 by · 1 Comment 

The recreational use of marijuana and hemp would become legal, with sales taxes imposed upon them, under an initiative going before California voters on Nov. 8.

Proposition 64 would also establish packaging, labeling, advertising and marketing standards and restrictions for marijuana products, including prohibiting marketing and advertising marijuana to minors.

The initiative also authorizes re-sentencing and destruction of records for prior marijuana convictions.

The measure would impose a state excise tax on retail sales of marijuana equal to 15 percent of the sales price and state cultivation taxes on marijuana of $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves.

The initiative allows for local regulation and taxation of marijuana and exempts medical marijuana from some taxation.

Passage of the initiative would result in net reduced costs ranging from tens of millions of dollars to potentially exceeding $100 million annually to state and local governments related to enforcing certain marijuana-related offenses, handling the related criminal cases in the court system and incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders, according to an analysis conducted by the Legislative Analyst’s Office and Department of Finance.

The analysis also found passage would result in net additional state and local tax revenues potentially ranging from the high hundreds of millions of dollars to more than $1 billion annually related to the production and sale of marijuana. Most of these funds would be required to be spent for specific purposes such as substance use disorder education, prevention and treatment.

Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its products. It can be refined into a variety of commercial items including paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food and animal feed.

Opponents — including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. — argue that legalizing marijuana will lead to a sharp increase highway fatalities and impaired driving, noting there is no current standard for determining if a driver is “impaired” by marijuana. They also argue the measure would permit marijuana farms near schools and public parks and will lead to a proliferation of “pot shops,” particularly in inner-city communities.

Detractors also contend the measure would allow prime-time television advertisements for marijuana, exposing children to the drug. Backers of the measure flatly deny that the proposition includes any such provision and includes strict requirements to prevent marketing or sale of marijuana to children.

Pot’s Hidden Price

October 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

“It’s just a plant” is a common refrain from those who want to legalize the leaf, but a recent study of cannabis production argues that the environmental impact of marijuana farming must be considered — especially as more states move toward further legalization this election season.

The study was conducted by Jake Brenner, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences at Ithaca College, and Van Bustic, a specialist at the University of California Cooperative Extension. It was published earlier this year in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The study also highlights the lack of published, peer-reviewed empirical research on all aspects of cannabis agriculture, which is already a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States despite still being listed as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government.

Location, location

The amount of land and water used for growing cannabis has not traditionally been a concern, especially when compared to other agricultural products grown in California. But where the cannabis is grown has potential ecological consequences.

Brenner and Bustic examined grow sites in three northern California counties and found that their usual placement had potentially negative impacts on two threatened fish species.

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Aerial view of marijuana plants and cannabis agriculture.

That’s because the sites are typically placed on remote plots of land in forested areas, many on steep slopes. Access roads need to be created and swaths of land cleared for production, regardless of whether the cannabis is grown outdoors or in a greenhouse; that increases potential for soil erosion and chemical run-off into streams in which the Chinook salmon and steelhead trout live.

The fish are also susceptible to harm from a decrease in water flow as a result of the cannabis agriculture.

“Siting grows in areas with better access to roads, gentler slopes, and ample water resources could significantly reduce threats to the environment,” Brenner and Bustic write. “Future cannabis policy should take into consideration the potential for mitigating environmental impacts through land-use planning.”

Know before you grow 

Brenner and Bustic say their study, which covers the watersheds of northern California’s Humbolt County, is an example of the sort of survey and analysis that could be done — and is necessary — anywhere cannabis agriculture takes place.

And while California is taking efforts to encourage local governments to create land-use policies for cannabis agriculture, they argue that more research on marijuana farming needs to be done.“Land-use science on cannabis agriculture lags behind research on other crops, but advances in the field will be crucial for predicting future cannabis expansion and moderating its impacts,” they write.

That multi-billion marijuana production industry is only going to grow: This November, voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will decide whether to allow their states to legalize and tax recreational marijuana; while voters in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota will head to the polls to determine whether their states will allow medicinal uses of marijuana, joining the 25 other states that already do so.

Pot Use May Cause More Accidents, Warns AAA

October 6, 2016 by · 3 Comments 

Drug-impaired driving is a rising problem statewide and nationally, and a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in California could make it worse, the Automobile Club of Southern California warned Wednesday.

According to the Auto Club, nearly 20 percent of fatal collisions in California involve at least one driver who tested positive for drugs.

“The problem extends beyond recreational marijuana and illegal drug usage — many prescription drugs can impair skills that are critical to driving,” said Kathy Sieck, senior vice president of public affairs for the Auto Club.

The Auto Club is on record opposing Proposition 64, which would legalize recreational marijuana use in the state for people age 21 and older. Sieck said approval of the measure could contribute to an already growing problem of drug-impaired motorists.

“Prop. 64 is a gamble on the public’s safety, which isn’t a risk worth taking, especially when drug-impaired driving is on the rise,” she said.

Sieck’s comments came as the Auto Club convenes a “Drugged Driving” summit at the Petersen Automotive Museum, themed “Is California Prepared for What’s Next?” The gathering will include drugged-driving and public-policy experts discussing their findings on the effects of marijuana and other drugs on traffic safety.

Proponents of the measure insist the proposal includes a requirement for an extensive public-health information campaign that will include information about the dangers of driving while impaired by marijuana, “and the potential harms of using marijuana,” according to Californians for Responsible Marijuana Reform.

The group also contends the measure will provide $3 million a year to the California Highway Patrol to develop updated DUI protocols for determining when a driver is marijuana-impaired. It would also impose restrictions on acquisition of marijuana, including “strict safeguards against children accessing it.”

Jake Nelson, director of AAA Traffic Safety, Advocacy and Research, noted that its research found that after Washington legalized recreational marijuana, fatal crashes involving drivers who had recently used marijuana more than doubled.

“More studies are needed, and it is worrisome that five states this year, including California, are considering a far-reaching policy change that could have unintended consequences for traffic safety, the emergency medical system, law enforcement and the courts,” he said.

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