State legislators in Sacramento passed three bills late Friday to provide comprehensive regulations for medical cannabis. The bills, SB 643, AB 243 and AB 266, had strong support from Democrats and Republicans. This has been a monumental effort by many different groups and individuals. We are honored and inspired to have been included in the process and are grateful for the hard work and focus of so many people.
The policy is not perfect but the relationships that were forged combined with a strong and fair framework represent the best possible outcome. This legislation will provide immediate relief as we begin to tackle the crisis that has been damaging California’s communities, waters, and independent business owners for years. It will help provide some sanity on the eve of the expected 2016 ballot initiative.
We will be completing a more thorough analysis of what is in the legislation soon, but a few highlights:
- Cannabis cultivation is regulated like agriculture
- Specific license are created for specialty, small and medium cultivators
- Specific licenses are created for indoor, mixed-light and outdoor cultivation
- Appellation controls may now be established
Nineteen years after voters approved Prop. 215, California cannabis farmers are just a few years away from becoming licensed, but immediate environmental protections kick in now. We have an adequate and fair pathway to licensure. In passing these bills, which set up licensing categories based on size and style of farming, we sought clarity. By 2018 when licenses are available we will know exactly how to become compliant, just like other farmers and business operators. We have two years to get into compliance with existing regulations. And we start on a level playing field. Nobody has a special advantage.
The state government has finally recognized us – and everyone in the state is finally beginning to acknowledge our industry’s value, the jobs we provide and the economic benefit we create for our communities. The governor’s office provided critical leadership on the issue. The lieutenant governor and the board of equalization provided valuable input to the dialogue. Leadership in both houses and both parties worked together to ensure that all three legislative vehicles were complimentary and reinforced one another—and to ensure that the legislation was able to move even as improvements were being made right down to the wire. The legislation had backing from an amazing coalition – local government, law enforcement, labor and business owners.
From day 1 our community of independent artisanal farmers who want to grow their crops in compliance with the law provided unwavering support as long as our priorities were included. Through more than a dozen policy committees and multiple fiscal committee hearings in both houses ,this legislation was constantly amended as various perspectives weighed in. We were in the room to protect our priorities and to make sure they were included. They were.
California’s independent farmers are big winners today, one step closer to the professional goals and respect we’ve sought for more than three decades. Other big winners include patients, our communities, and watersheds.
But we’re not finished. In fact, we have barely begun. There’s a potential ballot initiative for adult use coming next year. There are jobs to be created, rules to be followed, taxes paid. There are counties and cities all over the state that will need to review and update local ordinances and policies. And, in just a few months our state will begin one of the most comprehensive rulemaking processes of recent memory.
We need to open the doors to research and help low and no income patients have the medicine they need. We need to ensure economic justice in the industry by reworking suitability language before licenses are issued. We look forward to working collaboratively to advance these goals—and more. We will be at the table the whole time. There is a lot of work to do. We will continue to be successful if we work together. And, in the next few weeks we will be launching the California Growers Association to ensure that all of California’s growers are working together.
But we are on our way, with a huge step toward the legal recognition and respect we deserve. And we took that step because we worked together. I’m going to end this letter with words repeated thousands times to each other over the several months, sometimes in whispers and sometimes as a rallying cry: together we are strong.
Photo By Suvicce (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons