The Sebastopol City Council passed a resolution, Tuesday night, introduced by council member Robert Jacob, to have the city create and adopt its own regulations on growing medical marijuana. Cities and towns in California have until March 1, 2016 to have rules in place for the cultivation of cannabis. If Sebastopol misses the deadline, state laws will be used for those that grow the quasi-legal plant.

California’s AB 243, AB 266, and SB 643 are known collectively as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA). Pro-Cannabis organization American for Safe Access describes the bills as way to “create a legal framework for medical cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, transportation, sales, and testing.”

Jacob, CEO of Peace in Medicine, a medical marijuana dispensary in Sebastopol, says that creating local regulations is a matter of economics. “We are about to rip the bottom out of Sonoma County’s middleclass,” said Jacob. The dispensary owner said that Sebastopol and Sonoma County’s economies are highly impacted by the sales of medical marijuana dispensaries and by businesses that sell equipment and supplies for growing marijuana. As part of the resolution, the city will ask that the county to conduct an economic impact report on cannabis in Sonoma County.

Jacob said that he began writing the resolution about five weeks ago with the help of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance (SCGA). Jacob wants Sebastopol to adopt its own rules to protect these growers and said that the state does not recognize them as anything more than nursery operators. However, by necessity, marijuana is a cash only business due to murky state laws and contradictory federal laws that still make growing, possessing or selling cannabis a crime.

“By pretending that they don’t exist and not recognizing them, we’re tuning them, immediately, into outlaws,” said Jacob who described the current market as a gray market.

The city council member and cannabis club owner said that the state does nothing and is not prepared to do anything to protect marijuana cultivators that are operating within state regulations. Ruby Steinbrecher is a Sebastopol attorney and board member for the SCGA and member of the California Growers Alliance. “We’re advocating for doing something very simple. Keep it short because later on we’re going to want to change things as this industry figures itself out,” said Steinbrecher. “A local ordinance can be very simple, allow Planning departments and councils to create programs to issue permits or licenses for annual fees and some local taxation via zoning under the current state regulatory licensing scheme of AB 266, et al, and do not limit the number of licenses issued,” said Steinbrecher.

At the Dec. 15 city council meeting, founding board member for Sebastopol’s Cittaslow and local attorney Omar Figueroa said Sebastopol should get in front of the regulation changes during public comment.

“There’s 17 different licensing categories and we can choose to start issuing some of those licensing categories. For example, testing of medical cannabis; it’s impossible to get a testing license for medical cannabis here in Sebastopol,” Figueroa said. “Distribution of medical cannabis and transportation are integral parts of the industry that the city council can lead the way in medical cannabis by issuing those licenses, as well as cultivation licenses.”

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