CalCannabis comes to Plumas County

Amber Morris, head of the Cannabis Cultivation Licensing Branch at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, stands before the welcoming placard when CalCannabis and the state water board visited Quincy on July 13. Photos by Steve Wathen

CalCannabis brought out all its guns to present to the public the status of its progress in developing regulations for both medical and recreational cannabis cultivation in California.

A dozen or so large placards stood on easels with a staff member standing in front of each one to answer questions. A stenographer drove in from Reno to take down people’s testimony, and staff from the Cannabis Cultivation Licensing Branch for the California Department of Food and Agriculture came to present the department’s update.

The California Water Resources Control Board also sent two representatives to the presentation to answer questions.

About two dozen citizens showed up for the presentation with questions on July 13 in Quincy. Reportedly, many of them thought it was a presentation by the Plumas County Cannabis Working Group.

The Cannabis Working Group is taking its draft cannabis ordinance on the road throughout the county during July and August seeking public input.

Now regulating all cannabis

Michael Stevenson, consultant from Horizon Water and Environment, LLC, who gave the presentation, pointed out that the California legislature in June had combined administration of both medical and recreational uses of cannabis in California through passage of the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act.

Michael Stevenson, consultant from Horizon Water and Environment, LLC, gives his presentation for CalCannabis on July 13 in Quincy.

In November 2016, California voted for the Adult Use of Marijuana Act by a margin of 57 to 43 percent. The state is supposed to start issuing licenses to cannabis businesses on Jan. 1, 2018.

Considering that a proposition allowing the medical use of cannabis in California passed in 1996 and draft regulations for the production and sale of medical cannabis weren’t released until April 28, 2017, no one is holding their breath that CalCannabis will meet the deadline.

However, Stevenson said that the state is using “emergency rulemaking” to develop combined medical and recreational cannabis regulations. Stevenson said that the new regulations will probably be similar in many ways to the recently proposed medical cannabis regulations.

Amber Morris, branch chief of the Cannabis Cultivation Licensing Branch for the DFA, said in an interview that the Jan. 1, 2018 date is still the intended target.

Experience with recreational cannabis in Colorado

Morris said that recreational cannabis sales have been an economic windfall for Colorado. She said that the biggest problem the state has faced has been people consuming too much cannabis in the form of edibles, such as immersed in chocolate.

Since the recommended dose for edible cannabis is only 10 mg, about one 30th the size of a typical aspirin tablet, edibles don’t have to be very large. Morris admitted that it would be difficult for her to eat just one piece of cannabis-laced chocolate.

Another problem is that, in comparison with smoked cannabis, it can take one to two hours for edibles to kick in, tempting people to over consume thinking that they haven’t eaten enough.

Morris also confirmed that large corporations have taken over cannabis production in Colorado since recreational cannabis was legalized in that state five years ago.

Nevada and recreational cannabis

Sales of cannabis for recreational use became legal in Nevada on July 1 of this year, purportedly to beat California to the cannabis market.

Nevada executed the fastest turnaround between a vote for legalization of the recreational use of cannabis and actual retail sales of cannabis.

CalCannabis draft PEIR

The presentation by Stevenson concerned the CDFA’s draft Program Environmental Impact Report  for cannabis cultivation in California. The PEIR is open for public comment until July 31 by mail, email or at public meetings like the one held in Quincy.

The PEIR is only a general environmental document for the state. Counties will be responsible for developing regulations fine-tuned to local social, economic and environmental conditions.

Objectives of California’s licensing of cannabis cultivation

– Establishment of minimum requirements for commercial cannabis cultivation licenses.

– Licensees conducting operations in accordance with federal, state, and local laws related to land conversion, grading, electricity usage, water usage, water quality, woodland and riparian habitat protection, species protection, agricultural discharges, etc.

– Development of a cultivation checklist tool that can be used by agencies and local governments to evaluate the environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation.

– A track-and-trace system that requires “unique identifiers” for each individual cannabis plant and cannabis product so as to track movement of cannabis or cannabis products throughout the distribution chain from cultivation to consumption.

Dates for future public meetings concerning Cannabis Workgroup’s proposed cannabis ordinance for Plumas County

– July 27, 6 p.m. – Mohawk Resource Center, Blairsden

– Aug. 2, 6 p.m. – Portola Memorial Hall, Portola (reservation not yet definite)

– Aug. 17, 6 p.m. – Mineral Building, Plumas Sierra Fairgrounds, Quincy

For further information on the meetings, contact Rebecca Herrin, senior planner, Plumas County Planning and Building Services, 283-6213 or [email protected].