About 100 people from all over California gathered in Eureka on Thursday for the latest in a series of statewide public forums on the future of cannabis regulation.
The latest proposed cannabis business licensing regulations were drafted in April by multiple government agencies, including the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, and are now in the 45-day public commenting phase. A majority of the people at Thursday’s meeting voiced concerns to Lori Ajax, the chief of California’s Medical Marijuana Regulations, who said the meeting was held only to listen to the community.
Among those who spoke Thursday in the gym of the Adorni Center was Humboldt County resident Lelehnia Du Bois, a cannabis business consultant who said she was largely concerned with the lack of focus on the patients. Du Bois said she’s also a patient and uses medical marijuana every day for a spinal cord problem she has dealt with all her life.
“We need to address the patients,” Du Bois said. “We are talking about the consumer being at risk through your regulations.”
She said the proposed regulations do not really take the patient or consumer’s perspective into account. She said the proposed regulation on the dosage a patient can receive needs to be changed to be more flexible. According to the proposed regulations, edible products would need to be produced with no more than 10 milligrams of THC and no more than 100 milligrams of THC in the whole package.
“I would not be alive if I couldn’t do that,” Du Bois said of regulating her own dosage. “So that scares me.”
Many other community members voiced a wide array of concerns Thursday with the 211 pages of regulations proposed in April. The regulations were drafted to lay out standards for marijuana businesses hoping to get licensed in California.
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After the Eureka meeting, the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation will head south for four more public meetings throughout California.
Speakers Thursday largely criticized licensing regulations on infrastructure, arguing the changes could push farmers out of the industry.
Alex Traverso, chief of communications for the cannabis bureau, said Thursday’s meeting was just to listen. He said the amount of public involvement and comments are going to help shape future regulations.
Traverso said some of the proposed regulations are in the hands of California’s Legislature, which is looking at Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget trailer bill. If the bill is passed, lawmakers will need to revise some of the regulations. Traverso said either way the comments they heard Thursday will help shape the coming regulations in the medical marijuana industry.
“There are people in the room here that have way more of an institutional knowledge than us,” Traverso said. “So we need to use that.”
Throughout public comments, the group expressed concerns of overregulation which could cut out small business and farmers, regulations that would create greater barriers of entry for business owners and too fast of a licensing timeline for owners to comply with the standards laid out.
The proposed regulations state that “priority licensing will be provided if the applicant can demonstrate that the business was in operation and in good standing with local jurisdiction by January 1, 2016 and the ownership or premises are the same as on that date.”
Teisha Mechetti, owner of Eureka-based AgDynamix, an agricultural consulting and management company, said the timeline laid out for business owners is not consistent with what’s happening on the ground. She said it won’t be possible for the businesses to make all the security and distribution requirements laid out in the draft.
“Not only would these regulations push out small business,” Mechetti said. “These would regulate even the big businesses out.”
Among the medical marijuana community was Max Esdale, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area but grew up in Eureka. Esdale said he was at the meeting as a concerned individual as well as the owner of Meadow, a San Francisco-based medical marijuana tech company specializing in distribution. Esdale said he understands the goals of the regulations are to provide safety, but he said it’s very crucial to focus on the amount of operational jobs the industry provides.
“Cannabis for Humboldt is the auto industry for Detroit,” Esdale said. “We can not mess this up.”
Bill Boerum, chairman of the Northern California Health Care Authority, a consortium of five community health care districts and hospitals including the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District, said the health care industry has been largely absent in medical cannabis policy making or dialogue. He said he is concerned that the regulations are overreaching and could prevent development of medical cannabis.
“If you try to control this very tightly,” Boerum said, “it’s going to choke off the entrepreneurs in the industry.”
The public can submit written comments on the draft medical marijuana regulations or attend public hearings that will be held throughout the state through mid-June.
For distributors, transporters, lab testers and retailers
- 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 8 in the Junipero Serra Building at 320 W. Fourth Street, Los Angeles
- 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 9 in the Department of Consumer Affairs hearing room S-102 at 1625 North Market Boulevard, Sacramento
- 1 to 4 p.m. June 13 in the King Library at 150 E. San Fernando Street in San Jose
- 1 to 3 p.m. June 14 at the California Department of Food and Agriculture Auditorium, 1220 N St., Sacramento
- 10 a.m. June 8 at 50 D Street, room 410A/410B, in Santa Rosa
- 10 a.m. June 13 at 1350 Front St. in San Diego
- 1 to 3 p.m. June 8 in the Junipero Serra Building at 320 W. Fourth Street, Los Angeles
- 4 to 6 p.m. June 13 in the King Library at 150 E. San Fernando Street in San Jose
- 10 a.m. to noon June 20 in the Department of Consumer Affairs hearing room S-102 at 1625 North Market Boulevard, Sacramento
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