Cannabis can be legally sold by medical marijuana dispensaries in cities that allow it. But the weed that comes in the back door has long been subject to murky regulations, at best — and producers often risk daunting jail time.
Under California's Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA), which went into effect this year but won't be fully implemented until 2018, cultivators, concentrate makers and edible producers will be able to come out of the shadows to obtain state and local licenses — if local jurisdictions welcome them. Lynwood, in southeast Los Angeles County, is one of the first cities in the state to consider opening its doors to legit marijuana manufacturing in the wake of MCRSA.
This week the Lynwood City Council voted 3-1, with one member absent for a family emergency, to allow and license up to five cannabis suppliers in some of the town's vast number of warehouses along the Alameda Corridor. A second vote, scheduled for Dec. 20, is required. If the ordinance passes that hurdle, potential manufacturers will have about 30 days before they can start applying for permission to spark up their operations.
Attorney Aaron Herzberg, whose CalCann Holdings helps marijuana concerns find real estate for their operations, says Lynwood will be home to "one of the first large-scale cultivation and manufacturing opportunities in L.A. County."
The council had decided to make its move to draft the legislation before Proposition 64, which legalized recreational pot for those 21 and older, was approved by California voters last month, according to mayor pro-tem Aide Castro. In September the council approved a similar ordinance but then went back to the drawing board to exclude commercial zones from areas where pot manufacturing could take place, Herzberg says. As it stands, the law allows production only in industrial zones.
The question now is whether Lynwood pot growers would be able to be up and running in 2017 ahead of the MCRSA's timeline for state licensing, which doesn't begin until Jan. 1, 2018. "I don't know," Castro says. According to Dale Gieringer, state coordinator of California NORML, which has analyzed MCRSA in-depth: "That's really a gray area."
Gieringer says manufacturers could open their doors before 2018, but they won't enjoy the same protections that MCRSA provides until they are actually licensees. "It's up to Lynwood to decide what it will tolerate," Gieringer says.
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Herzberg says the council intends for manufacturing to begin before 2018, and that the timing is good. The council, he says, waited until after Proposition 64 passed in order to put this final version of legalizing production to a vote. "A significant majority of Lynwood voters had voted in favor of Proposition 64," he says.
Castro says that if pot manufacturers set up shop this year and want to go recreational on Jan. 1, 2018, the council will have to amend the law to allow it.
"We see this as a new industry," Castro says, "and we want to be at the forefront."
Ironically, while Lynwood could become an epicenter for pot suppliers in the nation's dispensary capital, L.A. County, the city still does not allow its residents to buy medical pot from storefronts in town, which are banned. "I want the brewery, but not the liquor store," Castro says.