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State pols did their part last year in finally bringing some semblance of order to the state’s 20-year-old medical marijuana industry.
Now it’s the bureaucrats’ turn.
The three new state agencies tasked with making real the landmark Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act have been on the road the past month, gathering input and intel from stakeholders across California.
That magical medical tour rolled into San Diego on Wednesday, as more than 200 cannabis entrepreneurs, manufacturers, scientists, attorneys and dispensary owners waded into the regulatory malaise during a six-hour meeting with two of the agencies — the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation and the Office of Medical Cannabis Safety.
The state’s medical cannabis industry would exist entirely apart from recreational cannabis, if voters approve Prop 64 next month.
The January 2018 start date for license applications to start pouring in gives the newly minted agencies only a few months to hammer out the legalese of what is taking shape to be a labyrinthine landscape of license types and regulations. Officials will feed the findings from their eight-stop tour, as well as info gleaned from online surveys, into recommendations that will go to a public comment period sometime in mid-2017, followed by enactment a few months later.
“We’re not the experts; you guys are the experts,” Stephen Woods, a division chief in the state Department of Public Health, told attendees.
Most of Wednesday’s forum was spent huddled into brainstorming groups — folks in cargo shorts and trucker hats mingled amiably with those in wingtips and blazers — as attendees wrangled with the finer points of the regulatory framework.
Will employees be subject to criminal background checks? How can chain of custody be ensured as cannabis goods are transported and tested? Should delivery services be licensed? What should caps be for the amount of cannabis patients can consume per month?
Even arriving at a definition of “owner” has proved thorny.
Some of the heaviest lifting will come in figuring out the newly created distribution license — one of 17 licenses spelled out in the MCRSA. Attendees on Wednesday struggled to wrap their minds around the real-world ramifications of requiring every single gram of medical cannabis in California to go through brick-and-mortar distribution facilities.
“It’s a new process, and everybody’s learning — I guess this is why I sense this much frustration,” said Jonathan Teeters, director of government affairs for the Solana Beach-based startup Tradiv, an online marketplace for wholesalers and retailers. “The fact of the matter is, a lot of folks are going to run into barriers. A lot of folks are going to sink money into ideas and then realize, ‘Oh shoot I’m totally backwards.’ There are going to be bumps and bruises in everything; it’s just the way it goes.”
One of the afternoon’s most common refrains: clamor for state officials to be more proactive in coaxing their local counterparts into canna-friendlier policies.
“We can’t do that,” said An-Chi Tsou, senior policy adviser for the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation. “All we can do is educate.”
Their work is only half of the equation, since no state license will be awarded without the applicant first having a license from his or her local government.
“There are 58 counties, 482 cities, and they all like to do things a little bit differently,” said Tsou.
Learn more about the state’s cannabis road show here. The tour wraps up with a recently added eighth stop in Santa Ana on Oct. 18.
— Sebastian Montes
The Housing Bills That Made it Through
Gov. Jerry Brown’s big plan to make a dent in the housing crisis – which would have helped developers who build low-income housing leapfrog certain local restrictions – may have died, but this year wasn’t a total bust for housing bills.
Several measures to foster housing development made it to the governor’s desk, and he signed most of them.
The bills range from making it easier to build granny flats on your property – an experiment some cities in San Diego have been toying with this year – to streamlining environmental review for homes built near existing development to strengthening a state law that provides incentives like additional density to developers who include low-income housing in their projects.
Here’s a roundup of some of the housing and land use bills the governor signed:
AB 1934: Development Bonuses for Mixed-Use Projects
This bill requires cities and counties to grant developers certain incentives if the developer agrees to partner with a low-income housing developer and construct a joint project that includes affordable housing. The incentives might include raised height limits or lower parking requirements – but the whatever they are, they’d need to be agreed on by both the developer and the city or county.
AB 2180: Development Project Review Time Limits
This bill gives a city or county 120 days from the date a project’s environmental impact review was certified to approve or deny a project if the development is either entirely residential or a mixed-use development, where more than 50 percent is residential.
AB 2442: Density Bonus
This bill would grant additional density bonuses – units OK’d above what zoning allows in exchange for including low-income housing in projects – to developers who agree to make at least 10 percent of the units in their project available to transitional foster youth, disabled veterans or homeless people.
AB 2501: Density Bonus
This bill would streamline the already existing density bonus law, which grants incentives such as allowing developers to build additional units to what is allowed under local zoning rules if they agree to include low-income housing in their projects. It would require local government to adopt procedures and timelines for processing a density bonus application, provide a list of documents and information required, and notify the developer whether his or her application is complete. This bill also clarifies that all calculations with the density bonus given, should round up – a point of contention in Encinitas.
AB 2584: Housing Development
This bill prohibits local agencies from rejecting a housing development project for very low, low- or moderate-income households or an emergency shelter. It also prohibits them from imposing conditions before approval that would make the project too difficult to building. If a local government were to do either of these, they would have to issue written findings backing their decision.
SB 1069: Granny Flats
This bill makes it easier for homeowners to build granny flats on their property, by reducing fees and in certain instances easing parking requirements.
AB 2299: Granny Flats
This bill requires local government agencies to adopt ordinances streamlining the construction and permitting of these secondary units if homeowners want to build them. It would require these ordinances to prohibit policies that discourage granny flats, like overly burdensome parking requirements.
AB 2406: Junior Accessory Units
This bill would let local governments allow homeowners to convert existing bedrooms to housing units like studio apartments, that include things like doors to the outside and running water.
– Maya Srikrishnan
Chipping Away at the #BananasBallot
If you missed our rundown of all 17 state ballot measures at Politifest, we’ve got you covered. We did an overview on this week’s San Diego Decides podcast where we explain what each measure seeks to do, who opposes it and some of each side’s main arguments.
If you prefer to learn about your ballot props in song form, that is also an option that now exists.
If you want to drill down even further into individual propositions, here are a few pieces to read this week:
Prop. 56: The Cigarette Tax
You’ve likely seen an anti-Prop. 56 commercial in which smoking isn’t mentioned at all – instead, it features a teacher in her classroom, arguing the measure wouldn’t put enough money toward schools. What does a tobacco tax have to do with schools, anyway? The L.A. Times explains the claim.
CalMatters examined how the measure would impact poor smokers. Poor Californians are twice as likely to smoke as those who make over $50,000, but “research suggests that taxes are a very effective way to reduce smoking.”
Prop. 57: Criminal Sentencing Reforms
Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who’s running for Senate, has come out against Prop. 57, a measure that would give nonviolent felons a chance at a parole hearing once they’ve served their primary sentence, and would let judges – not DAs – decide whether someone should be charged as a juvenile or an adult.
Sanchez is running against Attorney General Kamala Harris, who wrote some of the ballot language but has not stated a position on the measure.
“Sanchez’ criticism of the ballot measure marks another step to the right during her candidacy – this, as she works to differentiate herself from Harris,” writes KPCC.
Prop. 58: Bilingual Ed
The man behind Prop. 227, a 1998 state law that requires California classrooms to be taught primarily in English, unsurprisingly is not a fan of Prop. 58, which seeks to undo most of that law.
Ron Unz writes in the Sacramento Bee that the current system has boosted test scores and achievement and that scrapping it would be a step backward.
A Sacramento principal, meanwhile, says there are many paths to learning, and Prop. 58 would clear away the barriers blocking some of those paths.
Golden State News
• California might have a brand new law limiting civil asset seizures, but folks traveling to California on Amtrak are still having disturbing encounters with cops. (The Atlantic)
• Farmers keep farming. (Bloomberg)
• Only about half of those illegally entering the country last year from Mexico were caught. (AP)
• UC President Janet Napolitano takes on campus safe spaces, trigger warnings and other things she says are impeding free speech. (Boston Globe)