Later this month the Adelanto City Council is expected to approve an ordinance allowing medical marijuana grow and research and development facilities within city limits. It will go into effect 30 days after its approval. The ordinance that would have allowed medical marijuana dispensaries, however, was defeated on a 3–2 vote last month.
Adelanto city staff worked on the proposed ordinance for nearly a year in an attempt to balance safety concerns with the city’s ability to create a substantial revenue stream. Fees from the operations could easily exceed $1 million a year, which will bolster the city’s general fund.
The anticipated approval comes on the heels of Governor Jerry Brown’s signature on three bills this past Friday that require jurisdictions to regulate facilities to assure they are in compliance with state law. Assembly Bills 243 and 266 and Senate Bill 643 set the framework for cities to enact ordinances allowing for medical marijuana grow facilities while regulating the products the facilities produce.
The bills require state and local licenses for all medical marijuana businesses. The new laws also allow cities and counties to allow the voters to decide if they want to approve additional taxes relating to the operation of the facilities.
The bills signed by the governor were sponsored by former High Desert Republican Senator and current Board of Equalization member George Runner. They were supported by the League of California Cities, California Police Chiefs Association, Western United Food and Commercial Workers, California Medical Association, Emerald Growers Association, and Americans for Safe Access.
“This regulatory package provides much-needed state oversight of the medical marijuana industry while recognizing that every California community is different,” said Runner. “The new laws will help improve public safety and bring about greater tax compliance.”
To date, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and 17 others have legalized the limited medical use of marijuana extracts. But at the federal level, marijuana remains illegal.
Due to marijuana’s federal status, many law enforcement agencies continue to raid facilities and seize assets for forfeiture. Asset forfeiture through the federal government in the United States exceeds $2.4 billion a year. Once disbursed, those funds are used to supplement law enforcement department budgets so they can purchase items such as additional helicopters and military-type equipment.
Two California congressmen, Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), took action to prevent such raids. As part of a spending bill in Dec. 2014, Congress passed a medical marijuana provision sponsored by the two that prohibits the Justice Department from using resources to prevent states from “implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
“The majority of the states have said they want medical marijuana patients to have access to the medicine they need without fear of prosecution,” said Farr in a statement. However, in April of this year, the two congressmen found that the Department of Justice had its own interpretation of the new law. They sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder stating that the Justice Department’s interpretation of their medical marijuana amendment in last year’s spending bill is “emphatically wrong” due to the department’s continued enforcement.
Rohrabacher and Farr say it is clear that the congressional intent of the new law is to “prevent the department from wasting its limited law enforcement resources on prosecutions and asset forfeiture actions against medical marijuana patients and providers, including businesses that operate legally under state law.” Adelanto will be in compliance with state law under the new ordinance.
Once Adelanto’s new ordinance takes effect in Nov. 2015, up to six permits could be issued for indoor grow facilities. Outdoor facilities will be prohibited. The facilities must be located within the city’s industrial park. These are not retail facilities. No sales are allowed.
The facilities cannot be established within 2,500 feet of sensitive areas, such as schools, parks and churches. The permits will be issued for a one-year trial period. An advisory board will be created that includes three Adelanto citizens and one member each from the city’s code enforcement and planning departments.