CAG Meeting #5: most educational yet

CAG Meeting #5: most educational yet, in spite of lack of time for state’s most important regulator to talk about cannabis regulations.

Information about cannabis state regulations poured onto the Community Advisory Group members at the fifth CAG meeting Tuesday, leaving many feeling more informed than they had been during the previous four meetings.

The 16-member panel, known as the CAG, heard a thorough presentation from Arthur Wylene and Paul Smith, of the Rural County Representatives of California. The panel also had a chance to ask a few questions of Amber Morris, branch chief of CalCannabis, the state agency that developed cannabis cultivation regulations and will issue cannabis cultivation licenses beginning Jan 2018.

Wylene and Smith talked about the series of bills and voter initiatives — AUMA and MCRSA  — which led to the Trailer Bill or SB 94, which called for the reconciliation of all the previous legislation into one regulatory framework for all things cannabis in California called the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act.

RCRC is a 35-member association of the state rural counties, Smith said, whose mission is to advocate for rural county governments.

“Whenever we do a presentation we want to remind our audience that our presentation is not an advocation of marijuana but about what the rules of the game are,” Smith said. “We do talk about the consequences of all of your actions. We have a wide range of opinions on the matter.”

Smith and Wylene’s presentation also included some history about law enforcement memos and acts that outline law enforcement agency priorities when it comes to cannabis, mentioning the Ogden Memo, the Rohrabacher Act and the Cole Memo, the goal of which is to:

  • Prevent distribution of cannabis to minors
  • Prevent cannabis revenue from funding criminal enterprises, gangs or cartels
  • Prevent cannabis from moving out of states where it is legal
  • Prevent use of state-legal cannabis sales as a cover for illegal activity
  • Prevent violence and use of firearms in growing or distributing cannabis
  • Prevent drugged driving or exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with cannabis use
  • Prevent growing cannabis on public lands
  • Prevent cannabis possession or use on federal property (national parks, government property, etc.)

“The track-and-trace system is the answer to the Cole Memo,” Morris said briefly during Smith and Wylene’s presentation.

The “track-and-trace” system is at the core of the state’s regulatory efforts and it ensures the state’s ability to follow a cannabis plant from seed or clone to packaged product. The program allows state taxing, public health, and law enforcement agency the ability to prevent the diversion of cannabis to minors, to collect taxes for cannabis sold and prevent the diversion of revenue to criminal enterprises. The state will track all activity surrounding the cultivation, and distribution of a plant, including how many times a single plant, which is assigned a unique serial number, was sprayed with pesticide, when it was packaged and sold, how much of the product from that plant has been sold to patients, and how much remains on dispensary store shelves.

Morris explained the regulations are complex, but farmers don’t have to wait until January 1, 2018 to learn about them. She said the licensing system may even be in place prior to that. Cannabis farmers must seek several permits, from agencies like the State Water Quality Control Board and Fish and Wildlife, before applying with her agency.

The meeting was the first for James Drew, the newest member to join the CAG to replace Matthew Shapiro, who resigned from the CAG to pursue a job outside the county. The Board of Supervisors voted in Drew earlier on Tuesday against MIG’s recommendations of appointing Matthew Wentz, a viticulture specialist with roots in the ranching community in the area. In his application Wentz expressed wanting to learn about the cannabis industry and said he viewed cannabis as any other crop that needs to be regulated.

Drew’s experience in the Ag Community comes from teaching plant and animal science, horticulture and agricultural mechanics to Nevada County Union High students for 34 years.

“As we move through this process, can we get information from other county [that have already implemented ordinances,]” Drew said.

Fellow CAG member Tom Cross pointed out that the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance had already provided the panel with a binder with much of the information provided during the meeting, and encouraged other members to use it as a resource.

Diana Gamzon, director of the Alliance, said the binder was intended as a resource for CAG members and included everything from explanation of the bills’ reconciliation, the bills themselves, all of the state regulations, ordinances and permitting process of several counties, and webpages and phone numbers of state agencies and state officials that could answer questions about state regulations.

“It’s a pretty massive piece of resource,” Gamzon said. “We wanted to provide all of education and information that can objectively inform the process of writing a new ordinance.”

In addition, The Alliance will be releasing the results of a three-week survey it conducted among cannabis cultivators. The survey is expected to provide a picture of what the cannabis industry currently looks like in Nevada County, in terms of acreage, land use, canopy size, and willingness to comply with local and state regulations.

“We believe it can help inform the process and help us come up with solutions to the issues that an unregulated industry has created over the years,” Gamzon said. “It will be very eye opening.”

The CAG will meet next on Aug 8 from 2 to 5 pm at the Foothills Event Center, 400 Idaho Maryland Rd, Grass Valley, CA 95945