CA: Santa Rosa Invites Marijuana Businesses To Step Out Of The Shadows

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Larry Schaeffer has grown marijuana in Sonoma County for more than a decade.

His Cherry Kola Farms outside Penngrove supplies award-winning strains of pungent pot to one of Sonoma County’s largest medical cannabis collectives, as well as discerning dispensaries around the state.

But after years of operating in a quasi-legal status as a nonprofit collective, Schaeffer is ready to go legit. He wants to be an above-board business, in an approved location with proper permits, and pay taxes like any other legitimate enterprise.

And he plans to do it in Santa Rosa.

“Santa Rosa wants this industry here,” Schaeffer said. “I think this is probably going to be the New Age Amsterdam.”

Perhaps more than any other city in Sonoma County, Santa Rosa has signaled its willingness to welcome the cannabis industry in from the shadows.

With voters poised to decide in November whether California will become the fifth state in the nation to legalize recreational use of marijuana, the city is accelerating its efforts to write the rulebook medical marijuana businesses will have to live by. The rules could serve as a template for restrictions on future enterprises producing and selling recreational marijuana.

City officials say they see significant economic development opportunities and public safety benefits to bringing an existing unregulated medical cannabis industry into compliance with reasonable local rules.

“We’re the fifth-largest city in the Bay Area, located between a major market and port and the supply,” said Councilwoman Julie Combs. “I think that puts us in an excellent position to get the most public benefit possible from an industry that is here now.”

City Manager Sean McGlynn said the city and the industry are engaged in a “mutual learning experience” about how to best go about something few other cities in the state have been bold enough to attempt.

Being in the forefront has many advantages, from the perspective of economic development, job creation and public safety, he said. But it also presents significant challenges the council will have to wrestle with, particularly in the coming months as the city drafts detailed regulations for the medical marijuana industry.

“There are going to be more bumps in the road, I predict, as we go forward,” McGlynn said.

For example, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s decision last week denied a request to downgrade marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug alongside heroin means California’s medical cannabis industry will likely remain in legal limbo for the foreseeable future.

It’s also why Schaeffer welcomes the state’s efforts to craft a new comprehensive regulation and licensing scheme for the medical marijuana industry, which is scheduled to go into effect in 2018, as well as Santa Rosa’s willingness to set up local regulations instead of banning the industry.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Santa Rosa Invites Marijuana Businesses To Step Out Of The Shadows
Author: Kevin McCallum
Contact: 707-521-5270
Photo Credit: Christopher Chung
Website: The North Bay Business Journal