A new political action group that will advocate on behalf of local medical marijuana growers held its first public meeting Monday, June 16, at the Laytonville Grange.
The leaders of the Mendocino Cannabis Policy Council said they would work to ensure that county and state laws regulating medical marijuana are fair to mom and pop operations as well as local dispensaries.
The council was born earlier this month after two colorful and slightly chaotic public meetings at the Laytonville Grange with San Francisco political activists Matt Kumin and Terrance Allen of California Cannabis Action, a lobbying group. The duo warned farmers that unless they get involved in the local and state legislative and political process quickly, regulations could come down that would destroy their way of life.
“We don’t want to be treated in a Prohibitionist way anymore,” attorney Matt Kumin of California Cannabis Action told the Laytonville group on May 19. “We want fair licensing fees for cannabis farmers. We want them to be able to apply for licenses for production, distribution and cultivation.”
The Mendocino Cannabis Policy Council’s next community meeting is slated for 2 p.m., Tuesday, July 8, at the Little Lake Grange in Willits.
The urgency to unite growers stems from the fact that until late last month, two bills to regulate medical marijuana were making their way through the California Legislature. Tom Ammiano’s AB 1994, which Kumin and Allen supported and would have regulated marijuana much the way alcohol is, was voted down by the Assembly May 29.
State Senator Lou Correa’s SB 1262 is still alive, passing the State Assembly’s consumer protection committee on Tuesday, June 17. According to some pundits, SB 1262 stands a fair chance of making it to the Governor’s desk.
Co-sponsored by the League of California Cities and the California Police Chiefs Association, SB 1262 gives the Department of Consumer Affairs the authority to license dispensaries and play a role in crafting cannabis regulations. The bill continues to be heavily amended as it makes its way through the Legislature. According to Internet pro-cannabis Internet blogger Vern Nelson, the Correa bill contains a “poison pill.”
“Recommendations for medical marijuana,” Nelson writes on orangejuiceblog.com, “can now only be given by doctors who ‘have a bona fide doctor-patient relationship, with medical marijuana recommendations to be made by a patient’s primary care physician or by a physician and surgeon to whom the patient is referred by their primary care physician.’”
Nelson continues: “This would in effect cut off medical marijuana for the VAST majority of patients who need it and are currently (with any luck) getting it: Most primary care doctors are ignorant, indifferent, or hostile to medical marijuana, and for various good reasons are fearful of unpredictable, draconian Federal law.”
At Monday’s Cannabis Policy Council meeting, Humboldt environmentalist and lobbyist Hezekiah Allen, the Mendocino Cannabis Policy Council’s new Sacramento “liaison,” told the group he opposes the Correa bill and plans to ensure that Mendocino medical cannabis farmers have “a seat at the table” when lawmakers sit down to write a better, more farmer-friendly bill.
“The fundamental common ground is there needs to be a limit on how much cannabis people can grow,” Allen said. “Otherwise they’ll be larger and larger farms and the little guys will be out of business.”
Eleven members of the new steering committee introduced themselves at the Grange, declaring their intention to “interface” with medical cannabis growers and dispensary owners from across the county and describing the five committees they have created:
• The Structure Committee will shape the group’s format and operational functions.
• The Local Policy Initiative Committee will work to influence Mendocino County cannabis policies, including the creation of a 2015 special countywide ballot initiative asserting local growers’ demands if a statewide adult-use marijuana measure is on the ballot in 2016, as many political insiders think it will be. The committee will also work to support local candidates who understand the needs of medical cannabis farmers and the vital economic importance of the cannabis industry to Mendocino County.
• The Statewide Policy Initiative Committee will work to influence cannabis policy at the state level.
• The Fundraising Committee will raise money for lobbying and organizing efforts.
• The Media Committee will publicize the group’s work and reach out to the many businesses that profit from the cannabis industry in Mendocino.
“We need to influence legislation and regulation,” steering committee member Leo Stone told the group. “Get the money flowing, put people in office who represent our best interests and pass an initiative.”
The council encountered its first bit of discord after announcing its decision to co-sign a letter to the editors of local media from cannabis dispensary owner Sherry Glaser, whose Love In It cooperative was raided by the county and DEA in March. Her letter excoriated Mendocino County’s “Mendo shakedown” practice, in which the Major Crimes Task Force raids small local growers and dispensaries, destroys their plants and product, seizes their cash and often material assets, exacts fees and penalties for each plant and “worries about formal charges after the fact.”
“This program is not simply unlawful but criminal,” Glaser writes. “Many people are intimidated and living in fear. People are afraid to stand up for fear of retribution.”
The letter was quietly tabled when several in the audience expressed surprise that the council had endorsed the letter before giving the larger group a chance to digest and discuss the letter.
Humboldt dispensary owner and cultivator Kevin Jodrey of Humboldt County praised the Mendocino Cannabis Policy Council for taking the lead in organizing local growers.
“You are really the last of the cannabis culture —it’s your region,” Jodrey said. “If it’s not you that moves this forward, it will be screwed up. . . . I'm down as long as we can lay down core values so when I'm old I don't have to pay $600 an ounce for cannabis like they do Colorado. When it changes over the course of time, what happens to us? My family did time for this. I’ve paid the toll. We need to create some form of fairness. We’re right at the point where we see this potential.”
(Jane Futcher is the author of Women Gone Wild, a memoir about moving to Mendocino County. She lives seven miles south of Laytonville)