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Elevated Cannabis Compliance Conference

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Elevated Cannabis Compliance Conference

Ilana “Sugar” Laytart, Lynette Shaw, Elaine B. Holtz

By Elaine B. Holtz and Kenneth E. Norton

“Come out of the woods and into the future,” was the theme of the Elevated Cannabis Compliance Conference held at the DoubleTree Resort in Rohnert Park. The Elevated Conference is about bringing great minds together and creating a network of support for the fast growing cannabis industry and regulations. Over 400 hundred people attended the Elevated Conference specifically designed with the intention of educating and informing canna-businesses, large and small, about current and future legislation involving cannabis production, distribution and sales in California, as well as to provide a venue in which we can exchange information about best-practices and pool our collective strength to present a united front within the cannabis industry. 

Since 1937 there has been probation of marijuana causing its use and cultivation to go underground, thus creating a profitable black market. An underlying goal of the conference was to reassure people that the new state law on medical cannabis was not a threat to them and that California was moving at a pace to help them get legal which in turn will open the doors to more research.

Produced by Brandon Levine, Director of Mercy Wellness along with co-producer Elle Yung and Coordinator/Co-Producer Felicia. Accomazzo was well organized and provided panel discussions in a multitude of areas. Each panel included a minimum of two people each and included topics on the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), The New Licensing Structure, Dispensary Practices, Setting Up Your Business, Outdoor Cultivation, Marketing and Branding and several panels included environmental impact and sustainable practices.

 California Assemblyman Jim Wood was one of the key note speakers. According to Wood thousands of hours were devoted to MMRSA that are being presented and he encouraged participants to be patient. He reminded people of the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, an initiative measure enacted by the approval of Proposition 215 at the November 5, 1996, statewide general election, authorized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Existing law enacted by the Legislature requires the establishment of a program for the issuance of identification cards to qualified patients so that they may lawfully use marijuana for medical purposes, and requires the establishment of guidelines for the lawful cultivation of marijuana grown for medical use. Existing law provides for the licensure of various professions by boards or bureaus within the Department of Consumer Affairs. Existing law, the Sherman Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Law, provides for the regulation of food, drugs, devices, and cosmetics, as specified. A violation of that law is a crime. 

AB 266, The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) would establish within the Department of Consumer Affairs the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, under the supervision and control of the Director of Consumer Affairs will be effective January 1, 2018 and Wood suggested people become familiar with this bill. MMRSA would require the director to administer and enforce the provisions of the act and would require the Board of Equalization, in consultation with the Department of Food and Agriculture, to adopt a system for reporting the movement of commercial cannabis and cannabis products. leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/

Wood advised there are limitations on how many types of licenses that can be held. He also reminded people “it is not over yet” and suggested concerned parties engage in proactive lobbying of the gatekeepers at local and state level. The general feeling is that it is not perfect, but at least it will remove much from automatic swat team arrest and criminalization, so folks will now deal with administrative fees and penalties. Now is the time to be influence the rulemaking process. Locally in Sonoma County we have the lobbying group Sonoma County Growers Alliance led by Tawnie Logan, executive director, and Women Grow’s Sonoma County Chapter (fb page) Chairwoman: Ilana “Sugar” Laytart and co-chair Joyce Williams. Woods introduced this year, AB2516 for Cottage Cultivation to protect small farmers and urban farmers from Big Corp monopolizing. With this there may be chances to form such statuary entities as agricultural and other cooperatives. . “Now is the time to be proactive,” concluded Wood, referring to influencing agencies and local officials on the rules that will flesh out the MMRSA to implement it.

“We are winning” was emotionally expressed by key note speaker Lynette Shaw. Known as the “Godmother of Medical Cannabis Caregiving, In 2011, Shaw’s Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax, the state’s first licensed dispensary opened in 1997, was forced to close down. For 18 years federal prosecutors fought legal battle against her. In April 2016 in the Federal 9th District Appeals Court Shaw prevailed in her win against the DEA/DOJ’s complaint. The DEA/DOJ had nothing to defend against Rohrabacher-Farr medical marijuana amendment protecting dispensaries from DEA raids by defunding that activity, clearing the way for it and other dispensaries in the region to operate without government interference. Shaw at presently is working with the Veterans Cannabis Group in Marin, CA. which she co-founded with Aaron Augustis who served in the US Army and was part of Iraqi Freedom in 2003. 

Over and over presenters stated that ecology, economy and community are important. To recognize that marijuana has a reputation of being deviant and times are changing as marijuana is being recognized as a plant for healing and now with regulations on the horizon, “The laws are changing so we can be the entrepreneurs we always wanted to be,” said Zack Darling, CEO of Hybrid Creative who was a sponsor and exhibitor. According to Yung and Accomazzo, the goal of this conference was to bring together people to network and support this fast growing industry and move out of the shadows of the black market and not let the n government or big business take away the industry our pioneers have worked so hard to establish, “We must stand together, get involved and learn from one another,” There are plans in the works to have a Conference in 2017, with all the changes that are happening in California and across the United States it will be exciting to hear and see what will happen in the next year.

MMRSA and Pending Bills in California State Legislature

MMRSA is comprised of two Assembly Bills 243 and 266, and one Senate Bill SB643 passed and signed into law as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.

AB243 focuses on regulating marijuana cultivation for medical use and protecting the environment by empowering the Department of Food and Agriculture to issue and oversee all cultivators’ licenses, to work with the Department of Pesticide Regulation for pesticide usage and safety as those relate to marijuana cultivation, to work with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the State Water Resources Control Board to protect fish and natural water flows.

AB266 legalizes all commercial marijuana activity pursuant to a local permit and license required by the city and county (which can also ban medical marijuana businesses), allowing for-profit businesses to obtain operational medical cannabis licenses from the state.  AB266 establishes the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, which will be part of the Department of Consumer Affairs, to develop and implement the rules necessary to enforce the MMRSA. AB266 also gives the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Department of Public Health the power to  promulgate any rules necessary to implement MMRSA. AB266 creates 17 different kinds of operational license types, prohibits vertical integration, and only permits certain combination of licenses. 

SB643 addresses medical recommendations and specifics of licensing and business location qualifications, such as being 600 feet away from a school and evidence of permission to use the property by the owner for medical marijuana operations.  

This legislative year there has been introduced the following bills in the California State Legislature:

SB1575 addresses nurseries, license combinations, delivery services, statewide uniform packaging standards, business entities and Board of Equalization as advisor regarding banking issues.

AB2516, introduced by Assemblyman Jim Wood, addresses the licensing of Cottage Cultivation, for smaller size plots than listed in MMRSA