Marijuana’s Growing-Pains in California

Jay Lauren

Public Meeting held by the California Medical Cannabis Cultivation Program Leaves Attendees Angry, Unconvinced, and Uncommitted.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA’s) Medical Cannabis Cultivation Program (MCCP) passed through Los Angeles on Tuesday (9/27), at the tail end of a cross-state tour visiting 8 cities. The event took place at Pasadena’s Convention Center, and drew attendees from every direction – LA County, the OC, Riverside, San Diego, and San Bernadino Counties – since this was the only meeting dedicated to Southern California.
The CDFA stated the meetings were intended to bring “public participation throughout the planning and environmental review process of cultivation licensing in California” and to “provide the public and regulatory agencies an opportunity to ask questions and submit comments”. Unfortunately, attendees who came looking for new information walked away empty-handed.
The event had no structure. Instead of using the allotted 3-hours in a (sit-down) format that would have allowed each official to provide a brief update and then answer questions, attendees were encouraged to walk around the room, ask questions, and then submit their comments online or into an “opinion box”.
The MCCP provided attendees with handouts that were copies of information found on their website. One attendee mentioned he had already read the material online, and called the handouts “a waste of paper” and the event a “waste of government resources and [his] time”. A number of people looking to start new businesses left without any guidance.
A hoard of people surrounded Amber Morris, Branch Chief of the MCCP. There were questions from growers we heard repeatedly, along with the answers: “How much will the licenses cost?” (Undecided.) “When will I be able to apply?” (Next year.) “How do I get a cultivation license?” (You’ll first need to obtain approval from your local council.) Ms. Morris did her best to answer all questions, but had no updates to share: regulations, deadlines, and checklists would all be provided, and she informed everyone the best way to stay posted was by signing-up for the MCCP’s ongoing updates (register here).

California Growers are Worried

We spoke to over a dozen growers. They all came to the meeting to learn about costs, and expressed concern whether the application and licensing fees would be too high. They were worried about getting squeezed out. What would become of their business if this happened? One grower said he’d stay underground or move out of CA, if it became impossible to continue in this state legally.
The next set of public meetings across California will be held after the CDFA drafts recommendations for the MCCP’s Programmatic Environmental Impact Report. We can only hope that meeting will provide some insight into next steps. Either way – sit tight, and save the drive: we’ll keep you posted.
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