.Marijuana Laws Overhauled by California Mid-Term Election

Washington, DC; Alaska; and Oregon legalized cannabis Tuesday night, leaving everyone wondering, “What the heck is wrong with California?” The Golden State led the way in medical marijuana in 1996, and is the nation’s largest domestic producer of the crop.

But California is a country unto itself, and seen from that perspective, it’s clear the “city-states” of the San Francisco-Bay Area, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and other progressive urban centers have implemented de facto legalization — pot’s decriminalized statewide, and available in licensed stores to folks with a doctor’s note. But several other “states” of California are charting their own path.

Backed by a 2013 California Supreme Court ruling, California cities and counties have wide discretion to ban almost any medical cannabis activity. That flexibility permits progressive communities to provide the access patients deserve, while allowing conservative regions to say “not in my back yard.” 

About a dozen California jurisdictions voted Tuesday on cannabis-related measures to permit dispensaries or regulate cultivation. Many of those measures went before sharply divided communities in which the local city councils and boards of supervisors stood in the way of reforms. A review of Tuesday’s votes shows that while cannabis is legal in certain parts of California, it remains controversial in others.

In San Diego County, reformers asked Encinitas and La Mesa residents to cast their ballots on Measure F and Measure J, respectively, to permit dispensaries in those cities. But F and J failed and dispensaries remain banned. San Diego County has one licensed dispensary for three million people.

In Santa Ana, the MMJ industry pushed Measure CC to regulate and tax dispensaries, while city officials backed Measure BB, a more restrictive ordinance. Measure BB passed Tuesday night. According to the OC Register, Mayor Pro Tem Sal Tinajero said, “[the people] spoke loud and clear and said, ‘We want it away from schools, and away from our neighborhoods, but we want to have regulation and we want to let people get their medicine.”

Residents of Santa Cruz County and the City of Santa Cruz voted overwhelmingly Tuesday in favor to add a small tax to medical cannabis sales. Santa Cruz permits dispensaries and has one the most thriving MMJ scenes in the nation.

Up in the cannabis-growing epicenters of rural Northern and Central California, several counties voted on measures to expand, restrict, or ban marijuana agriculture. Rural communities are clearly struggling with the burden of cultivation for the rest of the nation.

In Butte County, law enforcement cheered the passage of Measure A, and the defeat of Measure B. The Chico Enterprise Record reports that former sheriff Jerry Smith said Measure A “will give the county residents … the opportunity to take back this out-of-control scenario and still allow for medicinal marijuana patients to have access to cannabis.”

In Lake County, pro-cannabis forces narrowly failed to pass Measure M, which would have overturned cultivation restrictions passed by the Lake County Board of Supervisors. Lake County’s types of rules are becoming more popular. They limit indoor cultivation to 100 square feet; prohibit outdoor cultivation within Community Growth Boundaries or on parcels smaller than 1 acre; allow outdoor cultivation of 6 mature or 12 immature plants on parcels larger than 1 acre; allow collective or cooperative organizations outdoor cultivation of up to 48 mature or 72 immature plants on Agriculture zoned property of at least 20 acres.

Nevada County also said No to Measure S, which would have overturned cultivation limits based on parcel size.

And Shasta County banned outdoor cultivation at the ballot by passing Measure A to ban all outdoor cultivation of marijuana in unincorporated areas of Shasta County with 59 percent of the vote.
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