Weed regulation architects Bonta, Wood, Lackey

A group of state lawmakers made the trek up to the Emerald Triangle to host a midday rally on the Humboldt County Courthouse steps. The purpose? To urge Governor Jerry Brown to sign into law Assembly Bill 243 and Assembly Bill 266, which aim to codify regulations for California cannabis growers.

Briefly, AB 266 would establish an agency to be known as the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation which will track licensed cannabis establishments and products— think Alcoholic Beverage Control, but for weed. AB 243 aims to curb environmental damage caused by irresponsible cannabis growing practices.

PREVIOUSLY: Assemblyman Jim Wood Talks Cannabis

Occupying the podium at various times were our local Assemblymember Jim Wood —author of AB 243 — as well as Assemblymembers Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) who each had hands in AB 266. The three took turns voicing their support for the legislation they helped birth.

“For close to 20 years medical marijuana cultivators and patients have lived in a murky, grey area where state and Federal Law are in direct conflict,” said Wood. “It has prevented us from establishing reasonable regulatory and environmental protections from the North Coast and all of California. AB 243 provides protections for the environment from illegal cultivation activities and serves as the funding vehicle for the entire medical cannabis regulatory structure.”

The bill, Wood continued, would require all growers to be licensed with the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“It essentially classifies cannabis as an agricultural product,” he said. “Which requires cultivators to abide by the same regulations as other existing agricultural products which include all environmental laws.”

Assemblymember Rob Bonta speaks of the need for SB 266

Assemblymember Bonta then trumpeted the need for AB 266 saying California has never properly regulated medical marijuana.

“There are no testing standards required for medical cannabis,” Bonta said. “There is inadequate enforcement for illicit activity such as illegal grows and diversion of product out of state. The environment is being neglected and destroyed, and water has been inappropriately diverted. With this legislation much of that will end.”

“We’re really proud of the bipartisanship of this effort,” said Assemblymember Lackey, the sole Republican to lend his hand to the creation of the bills. “Republicans have been nervous to work on this issue but unless we want these rules written on the ballot, it’s time to come to the table.”

Humboldt County Supervisor Mark Lovelace

Also on hand to show their legislation love were Humboldt officials Sheriff Mike Downey and Supervisor Mark Lovelace, as well as Dan Ehresman, director of the Northcoast Environmental Center. Lovelace said the State legislature’s past unwillingness to act has been a major hurdle in getting cannabis regulated. 

“For far too many years, too many people were unable or unwilling to let the word ‘marijuana’ appear in policy or to even say the word at full volume,” Lovelace said. “That unwillingness to elevate marijuana from a punchline to a policy issue has given this industry unique immunity from all taxes, bookkeeping standards, labor laws and environmental regulation which in turn has made it a magnet for criminals and those who don’t care what wreckage they leave in their wake. That has to end.”

Sheriff Downey looked forward to a time when clear laws could help him and his department formulate a strategy to police marijuana cultivation and medicinal use. 

“I’m here speaking as the Sheriff of Humboldt County,” said Sheriff Downey. “I don’t represent the other 57 sheriffs in the state … but I know for my deputies in the field and for the things we have going on [here], we need some type of legislation that’s going to help us and give us a definitive roadmap for where we go with this thing.” 

NEC director Dan Ehresman hopes the laws will decrease the marijuana industry’s toll on the environment.

“Watersheds are literally being tapped dry, hillsides are being razed, communities are impacted from increased crime and environmental degradation,” Ehresman said. “California is 20 years overdue for a regulatory framework that will help reign in the impacts of an out of control industry.”

Wood concluded the event saying that he was fairly confident that Governor Brown would sign the bills. During a brief question and answer period, Wood was asked the purpose of the rally if he’s so sure.

“I believe there’s no such thing as too many voices,” Wood said.

NEC Director Dan Ehresman

Assemblymember Tom Lackey

Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey’s joke lands

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UPDATE, 10/7: Local videographer and news gatherer Andrew McFarland passed along video he took of the event. Fire up the YouTube clip below to be e-transported to yesterday’s rally.