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Appellation Trail

Legislation blazes new trails for state's cannabis industry


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When it comes to the roll-out of a unified cannabis policy in California, a sativa singularity if you will, the devil is definitely in the details—not to mention the tongue-twisting parade of cannabis-bill acronyms that are hard to keep up with.

Now that the state has merged its medical and adult-use recreational regimes into one law, what's next? Is everyone happy yet?

In late June, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a budget bill rider authored by North Coast State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, that aimed to fully square up 2016's Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMSRA) with the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA)—while protecting North Coast growers from a rapacious Big Cannabis onslaught.

Enter MAUCRSA, the Medical and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, roughly pronounced "mao-curser." What happens now that the state has acted speedily and decisively to bring its pot laws under one roof? The medical community, not to mention this newspaper, had declared that the state was "not ready" for legalization last year—but ready or not, the state now has one law and a whole bunch of details to sort out.

For one thing, a 500-page draft project environmental impact review (PEIR), issued by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in June, may be amended or revised to reflect changes in the new law that will impact the department, which has broad licensing and regulatory powers in the state's cannabis economy.

As the cannabis legislation was getting hashed out in Sacramento this spring, with a push from McGuire's rider bill, the CDFA issued its epic PEIR, which, as Rebecca Forée at the CDFA says, was written with the changing law in mind, even if it doesn't explicitly address all the changes that emerged in the final product—including the creation of an "appellation" regime overseen by the CDFA.

"We were aware of the trailer bill as we were preparing the draft PEIR," says Forée, communications manager at CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing, a branch of the CDFA charged with overseeing the licensing cannabis cultivators.

"However, the exact text of the law was in flux at that time. Therefore, we crafted the draft PEIR to accommodate a range of possible outcomes—from the existing bill [prior to passage of the trailer bill] to the passage of some form of the trailer bill."

Forée says a final PEIR will be issued by year's end and will incorporate new aspects of the law contained in the McGuire rider. She says she doesn't anticipate that the PEIR will be delayed or that the agency would need to reissue it. The draft PEIR was prepared by the Oakland-based Horizon Water and Environment.

"We are in the process of carefully reviewing the trailer bill language to determine what portions of the draft PEIR may need to be revisited or amended in the final PEIR," says Forée.

The draft PEIR is now in a state-mandated 45-day comment period through the end of July.

One key provision in McGuire's rider—which helped it gain the support of the California Growers Association, a statewide lobby—is the inclusion of a measure to create cannabis "appellations" to help protect growers in cannabis country.

In a statement about his rider released on June 12, McGuire highlights that 60 percent of all the cannabis grown in the country comes from four California counties: Sonoma, Marin, Mendocino and Humboldt.

With that fact in mind, McGuire—and fellow North Coast lawmaker Jim Wood—was adamant that North Coast growers needed to be protected in whatever reconciliation bill emerged from the medical-meets-recreational legislative process.

McGuire's budget rider bill pushed for enhanced environmental regulations in the cannabis industry—he's been a big anti-illegal-grow zealot—and for the creation of "an organic-standards program for cannabis."

A much-needed North Coast "one-stop shop for tax and license collections" so would-be cultivators don't have to drive five hours to Sacramento to apply for a license is on the way, and the McGuire rider also recognizes agricultural co-ops, "ensuring that small family cultivators can thrive in the new regulatory system."



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