■ By Matt McPherson / Contributed
Misinformation seems to be fueling confusion over Proposition 64 in the Hemet/San Jacinto Valley. At the last San Jacinto City Council meeting, numerous citizens spoke in opposition to any form of regulated cannabis in the city. The discourse between the two sides became so heated that Councilman Alonso Ledezma left his seat to confront one of the many speakers in the audience. Through some coaxing from the other council members, Ledezma returned to his seat and after a brief recess apologized to the audience. The outright refusal to compromise with the citizens of San Jacinto over Prop 64 appears to stem from misinformation and apparent misunderstanding.
Many citizens didn’t seem to be very informed on:
What the proposed regulations are.
How and which cannabis businesses would be allowed to operate within city limits.
The substantial benefits to the city by regulating and taxing the cannabis industry.
How the funds would be used to benefit the citizens of the community
The valuable medical effects to many.
What is Prop 64?
In November, California voters approved Proposition 64 – the Adult Use of Marijuana Act – by 57 percent. Now adults over the age of 21 can legally use, possess and cultivate marijuana without criminal consequences. This means any household can legally cultivate up to six marijuana plants inside their residence. San Jacinto residents also voted to regulate, monitor and tax marijuana in the city if Prop 64 passed. Other municipalities that did not will have to wait until the next general election to do so. Here are some common questions regarding the new laws:
Can I grow my own and is there a distance requirement between a residence growing six plants and schools?
There is no distance requirement between a residence where marijuana is growing and a school. San Jacinto understood that a marijuana ban would be ineffective because a city cannot ban or stop any household from growing up to six marijuana plants.Additionally, it cannot stop residents from sharing it (not selling it) to adults or possessing marijuana. With these changes, only regulating, monitoring and taxing can suppress and reduce illegal activities.
What is track-and-trace?
It is the modern supply chain tracking system applied to marijuana.
1. Cultivation: Upon propagation, each plant or clone is assigned a globally unique identifier. This records and archives plant phases, additives and employee interactions to ensure accountability and adhere to regulations during the growth cycle.
2. Harvest: All cannabis components are batched by material type. Batched material receives a new identifier that contains plant history since propagation.
3. QA Testing: Cannabis and derivatives are then tested for chemicals, contaminants and other harmful additives prior to entering the marketplace. Test results, including potency, are automatically assigned and printed on product labels.
4. Transportation: A detailed manifest must be completed prior to transporting cannabis. The manifest displays the entire chain of custody, including the shipment origin, a detailed contents list including quantity, destination and driver credentials. Manifest reports are available for law enforcement in real time.
5. Dispensary: In addition to linking products to plant origin, each sale is tracked to the patient or customer. This completes the unbroken chain of custody from seed-to-sale.
6. Medical Patient ID Cards: The Traceability System generates a unique ID number for every patient, and can also integrate with hardware to print patient ID cards. Patient information and sales limitations are easily validated in real time.
7. Traceability Portal: The traceability portal is a secure, online data hub that provides detailed analytics for regulatory agencies and law enforcement. The data allows law enforcement to track cannabis transportation and inventory in real time. Detailed financial reports are available for the Department of Revenue or other agencies. This ensures compliance and adherence to industry standards and state laws.
Traceability is key to regulating marijuana. Illegal activity and any resident growing six plants in their residence is not tracked or tested. One of the benefits with seed-to-sale tracking is if marijuana falls into a minor’s possession, it can be traced back to who purchased it. A ban would continue business as usual with no seed-to-sale tracking.
Is pot still a criminal charge in California?
For the most part, no. Most activities have been made legal for recreational use. Any other activities not allowed are either a misdemeanor or civil charge. Today’s illegal activity exceeds any public safety agency’s capability. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department does not seek out illegal grows or dispensaries. If other felony activity connects to cultivation, manufacturing, or sales, it is included in criminal charges, otherwise it isn’t. Any activity in the city requires all partners, employees, and investors to pass a background check.
What are the standards and who handles them?
Licensing and regulation of marijuana would be handled by a Bureau of Marijuana Control within the Department of Consumer Affairs. The Department of Food and Agriculture would handle licensing and oversight of marijuana cultivation while the Department of Public Health would license and oversee manufacturing and testing. The state Board of Equalization would collect marijuana taxes and the state Controller’s Office would distribute the revenue.
Standards are the foundation of regulating and monitoring. By allowing a legal way to cultivate, manufacture, and sell marijuana, illegal and unsafe conditions will be substantially reduced. Providing an easy way for adults to purchase marijuana reduces the need for an individual to grow their own (without safety standards or seed-to-sale tracking).
Months and possibly years of debate and education will be necessary to educate and inform the public on the implications of not regulating or taxing the cannabis industry. Public gatherings and educational seminars should be very beneficial in the coming weeks in an attempt to inform the public of what can happen if the industry goes unregulated.
One example to contrast the crossroads San Jacinto finds itself at is to take a look at the city of Hemet, which opted not to regulate or tax cannabis. More than a half dozen dispensaries for recreational and medical marijuana operate today within the city limits, despite the council’s decision to ban them. These facilities operate below the radar of the City Council and continue to conduct unregulated business, which means the city is losing out on desperately needed tax revenue.
This example shows that after the passing of Prop 64 the cannabis industry will operate and progress regardless of city restrictions. Given this obvious fact, the cannabis business might as well be regulated and produce a tax that can further police and monitor the industry. Law enforcement within the city of Hemet has explained they cannot shut the dispensaries down unless another crime takes place on or around the facilities that would justify further investigation.
The ability of the city of San Jacinto to recognize these factors and what is to come throughout the years has already placed them well ahead of the pack, and should generate a significant taxable income that may benefit everyone in the community.