In October 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) into law. MMRSA created a two-tier licensing system, requiring all individuals working in the commercial cannabis industry to have both a state license and a local license, permit, or authorization for their business.

A condition of the new law required cities and counties to have ordinances enacted and in effect regarding the cultivation of medical cannabis by March 1st, 2016. Without an ordinance in place, the city would give up its rights to permit/tax/regulate cultivation.

This section of MMRSA caused widespread panic and hasty implementation of emergency cultivation bans throughout the state.

In Martinez, this threat of regulation by the state prompted a City Council Public Safety Meeting to be called for February 8th, 2016. On the agenda is the indoor cultivation and delivery of medical cannabis.

This was a call to action for all supporters of safe access to medical cannabis in Martinez to address the City Council and speak out against further bans in the city.

Alarmed by the prevalence of outright bans, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 21 into law last week, removing the March 1st, 2016 deadline. So the rushed crisis was averted.  This gives us an OPPORTUNITY.

With the deadline removed, Martinez finds itself in the enviable position of being able to start a dialogue about medical cannabis and take the time to develop comprehensive regulations that protect medical cannabis patients and allow the City to benefit from a burgeoning industry, all in a way that maintains the health, safety, and values of the Martinez community.

We cannot afford to cram more rushed laws into the books. The state is a hodgepodge of ordinances, commonly leaving whole sections of the medical cannabis industry with no regulation whatsoever. And here in Martinez, we need a comprehensive review of all our medical cannabis ordinances to address the needs of the Martinez community in 2016 and beyond.

Here is a recap of medical cannabis ordinances and rulings in Martinez:

  • In 1996, the voters of California legalized medical cannabis statewide with the Compassionate Use Act.
  • In 2000, Martinez City Council passed an ordinance allowing and regulating dispensaries. However, all permits were conditioned on the Planning Commission or the City Council making particular findings. This condition made such permits all but discretionary.
  • This 2000 ordinance was reviewed publically in 2009 but was unchanged. No dispensary has ever opened in Martinez under the ordinance.
  • In 2014, the City Council passed an ordinance banning outdoor cultivation of medical cannabis, but leaving both indoor cultivation and the manufacturing of medical cannabis products completely unregulated.

With medical marijuana on the minds of the Council, and on the agenda for Monday, Feb 8th, let’s engage the Public Safety Committee and the Council, and talk about a comprehensive review of our town’s marijuana laws.  Sixteen years ago there was fear, uncertainty, and doubt surrounding the legalization of cannabis as medicine.  It is time to re-write our patchwork of out of date ordinances and create a comprehensive medical marijuana framework that allows safe access, growing, manufacturing, delivery, and dispensing for Martinez citizens.

I will be at the sub-committee meeting with a short presentation on sound and strategic marijuana laws for communities.  Hope to see you there too.

City Council Public Safety Subcommittee meeting
Monday 6:30 pm. Martinez Senior Center. 818 Green Street

Ashley Bargenquast is an associate attorney at the criminal defense law firm of Tully & Weiss based in Martinez.  She specializes in compliance with local and state medical marijuana laws. You can reach her at ashley @ tully-weiss.com