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Cities opt for local control over medical marijuana

Cities opt for local control over medical marijuana

Local control has prevailed throughout Santa Barbara County, as cities have decided to retain the right to impose their own marijuana regulations, rather than accept Sacramento’s policies.

The decisions follow a state initiative known as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, enacted by the Legislature in September and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The act creates a state licensing system for cultivation, manufacture, retail, sale and distribution and testing of medical cannabis, which is overseen by the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, a division of the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

Cities throughout California have been rushed to determine their local laws and regulations on medical marijuana by March 1, 2016, or yield responsibility to the state whose laws are to be applied to regions without regulations.

The decisions are only applicable to medical marijuana and do not apply to recreational use, which is still illegal in California.

In Santa Maria, the City Council voted unanimously to ban the cultivation of medical marijuana within city limits but to allow its delivery under heavy regulation.

Lompoc took a step further, prohibiting dispensaries, mobile dispensaries, cultivation and delivery within the city.

“I’m an advocate of local control,” City Manager Patrick Wiemiller said. “I think you’re better in touch with what the community’s needs are than they necessarily could possibly be up in Sacramento.”

In Guadalupe, the City Council also selected to ban cultivation and delivery, after already having adopted regulations against dispensaries.

Santa Barbara County officials still are considering the matter, with the first reading expected Jan. 19, by the county’s planning commission, according to county staff.

San Luis Obispo County took a different route, opting not to ban cultivation.

Instead, supervisors directed county staff to begin developing an interim urgency ordinance aimed at regulating how medical cannabis is grown locally and return in mid-January with options.

Ian Parkinson, the county’s sheriff, said he was looking forward to having some regulations after so many years in “limbo land.”

“At the end of the day, we need to establish some parameters,” Parkinson said. “Without those, we will be right back where we were when Proposition 215 came out. We have to do something.”

California voters passed Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, allowing patients with certain diseases and conditions, and their designated caregivers, to possess and cultivate marijuana for their personal medical use through a recommendation or approval of a physician.

Some 20 years later, the governor enacted a set of new statewide laws — Assembly bills 243 and 266 and Senate Bill 643 — governing the cultivation, testing and distribution of medical marijuana.

Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande and Pismo Beach have yet to discuss the matter. 

Staff Writers Abby Hamblin and April Charlton contributed to this report. 

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