Politics of Pot Meeting Draws Large Crowd in Ben Lomond

By SLVNews.net

Cooperation, Collaboration and Community Action Favored By Most

As many as 200 people came out for a public meeting in Ben Lomond Wednesday night to share their opinions and learn about new and proposed regulations around medicinal cannabis particularly as they relate to the Santa Cruz Mountains and the County in general.

The meeting began with a presentation about the new California law “The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act” (MMRSA) from Santa Cruz attorney Sasha Brodsky and Monterey film maker and executive director of the Monterey NORML, Ryan Munevar.

A large graphic demonstrated the complexity of the new law; over a dozen types of licenses will be issued by the state, some as early as this spring*. A variety of different state agencies will play a role in creating the rules licensees will be subject to and a Chief of the new Bureau of Medical Marijuana is being sought who will coordinate the players with a goal to be up and running by no later than Jan 2018.

The audience next heard from three members of the Santa Cruz County Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee (C4). This 13 member group was created by the Board of Supervisors to come up with policy recommendations after the Board chose to rescind their most recent cannabis ordinance and revert to the previous, so called “limited immunity” rules.

That move was the result of a citizen’s referendum calling for approval by the voters to the complete ban the Supervisors had passed 3-2 in March.

Eric Hammer, appointed to represent the 5th District by Supervisor Bruce McPherson, was first up and he outlined many of the concerns heard over the last 10 weeks of meetings. He spoke to the need for the community to come together behind reasonable regulations so the County would retain control over how the burgeoning industry would be allowed to develop in Santa Cruz. He stressed the importance of ensuring that the environment be protected and quality of life issues addressed.

He urged the audience to express their opinions both to the committee and directly to McPherson and other Supervisors who will hold a first reading of a proposed ordinance on Dec 8th.

Ben Lomond mom, educator, and self described “homesteader” Kim Sammet of SCM2, one of the five cannabis advocacy organizations represented on the C4, spoke about the progress the committee has made. While stressing that no final recommendations have yet been made, she said there was strong consensus against a ban and for some sort of licensing scheme. She also said the group was unanimous in their support for dropping the plant count in favor of a grow site size measure to determine what would be permitted on various parcels. She also expressed confidence that the committee would recommend lifting the restriction that prevented sale outside of the county.

Pat Malo a co-founder of the Cannabis Advocates Alliance and their representative on the C4, spoke about the need to protect the unique quality of the cannabis culture in Santa Cruz. He stressed how important it is that locals stay connected and work together to leverage the value of the Santa Cruz “brand” which he said was a “world leader” in research and cultivation and well respected for the quality of the medicine produced here. He saluted the pioneers in the collective movement like WAMM and The Veterans Alliance as well as the many smaller groups who have organized to supply medical cannabis to their member patients.

Robert Zaremba a Boulder Creek businessman and co founder of SCM2 was the last presenter and he also spoke about the need to get organized and work together in order to be able to compete with other counties who will likely permit much larger scale operations than anything contemplated in Santa Cruz. He invited anyone interested to reach out to the SCM2 for advice on best practices.

At that point the audience was invited to offer their opinions For the next hour a steady stream stepped up to the microphone and offered a wide range of suggestions. Many shared their concerns and personal experiences all of which were recorded for presentation later to the C4.

After everyone who wanted had an opportunity to speak, moderator Jim Coffis thanked them and invited them to stay, mingle and speak personally with any of the 6 members of the C4 plus the two consultants to the committee who were in attendance. Many took him up and small conversations took place throughout the room, some even continued outside after the hall was emptied.

The meeting was civil and respectful throughout. One member of the audience expressed surprise that there were not more younger people in attendance.

[ This article was originally published at SLVNews.net ]