For the second time in less than a week, state regulators visited Redding to gather ideas on possible rules for the medical marijuana industry.
“None of this is final by any means,” said An-Chi Tsou, a senior policy analyst with the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation.
That agency joined with the state’s new Office of Medical Cannabis Safety to put on a workshop at the Redding Library on Monday afternoon and evening to gather input on regulations it is hashing out, as well as ideas for other aspects or issues they should be examining, said Lori Ajax, chief of the bureau.
It is the first of seven forums around the state the agencies will hold before they begin crafting the specific rules and requirements. While many of those are still proposals, Ajax and others did cover key parts of the new industry and the regulators who will police it.
Here are a few take-aways from the meeting:
The new rules came about because of a package of bills referred to as the Medical Marijuana Regulatory and Safety Act, or MMRSA (MIR-sah) as its often called.
MMRSA creates three agencies charged with licensing and tracking medical marijuana operations from cultivation to dispensaries, Ajax said.
Her agency will handle licenses for all but the commercial cultivators and manufacturers. Each of those licenses is in flux, she said. But there are some common rules, and No. 1 is local control: All operations must have the approval of their local municipality, Tsou said.
In addition, the agencies are trying to simplify the application process by having similar requirements across all licenses, Ajax said.
Larry Lees, Shasta County’s executive officer, visited the forum because he wanted to hear the public’s feedback about 60 people attended.
He said the state agencies gave a good presentation and hit on some good topics.
“From what they said, I had no red flags,” he said after pointing out they didn’t get into too many specifics.
But there is a question mark: MMRSA requires approval from a local agency or “other authorization,” Tsou said.
Lees said he’d have to know what that entails before he could evaluate it.
“I don’t know what that means. I don’t know how they define it, and I don’t think they do (either),” he said.
“No one knows what ‘other authorization’ means,” Tsou said. The agency will have to figure that out as the rulesmaking process proceeds.
Monday’s meeting focused on the medical marijuana community and industry, but in November voters will decide on Proposition 64, which would legalize recreational marijuana for adults and establish a regulatory structure similar to yet distinct from MMRSA.
Polls have consistently shown it passing.
If it passes, Ajax’s bureau would decide if and when to allow current medical marijuana dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana.
But, she said, her agency is focused on medical marijuana and their mammoth task of regulating an industry used to 20 years operating as a gray market.
Should Proposition 64 pass, the agency will examine its responsibilities under the measure then, she said.
Among the rules already set by MMRSA is a grandfather clause: Dispensaries who were “in good standing” with their local government at the beginning of 2016 get priorities for licenses.
To prove they’re in good standing, they need a letter from their municipality confirming that, Tsou said.
Those with a criminal past can also apply, but they’ll be subject to additional scrutiny to examine their rehabilitation, the nature of their crimes and other criteria, she said.
Regulators haven’t yet determined how many licenses will be made available, Tsou said.
What Do Locals Think?
Gina Munday, owner of The Green Heart dispensary in Mount Shasta, said she drove down from her Siskiyou County home to find out more about the regulations, especially for dispensaries, cultivation and transportation. She said she’s wondering about the intersection of federal and state law, considering how much land is federal property.
Lisa Wright, 53, drove from the Weaverville area with her son, John Wright, 19, to learn about the new regulations. Lisa Wright said she is part of an informal collective to connect patients in Trinity County.
The small group sessions brought out a lot of common ground, she said.
“What we found is in other groups (we saw that) the same issues were brought up,” she said.
John Wright said he was interested in the distribution, or wholesale, licenses. He said the required lab testing will improve the quality for patients.
Munday, who used to own a dispensary in Anderson before the city prohibited them, said there’s plenty of potential for jobs and revenue in Shasta County.
“Our local cities and counties are so far behind,” she said. “Shasta Lake made more than $300,000 (in marijuana tax revenue).”