California voters did the easy part: they legalized marijuana.
Proposition 64’s approval was a big victory for people who consider the drug harmless and for those who hope to profit from growing and selling it.
Yet, as anyone who has tried to buy marijuana since the election without a medical card knows, passing Proposition 64 was just the first step.
The green rush is coming, for better or worse. But there is a great deal of work ahead, and many potentially controversial decisions to be made, before marijuana can be sold like cigarettes and alcohol.
It took close to 20 years to write comprehensive rules for medicinal marijuana, which voters approved in 1996.
We can’t afford to wait that long this time.
In fact, Proposition 64 directs the state to begin issuing licenses for commercial cultivation, distribution and retail sales beginning in 2018.
Santa Rosa and Sonoma County are among scores of local jurisdictions throughout the state facing their own decisions about such things as whether to allow marijuana to be grown outdoors, where marijuana-related businesses will be permitted and whether to impose taxes on top of the 15 percent levy included in Proposition 64.
Sonoma County planning commissioners recently approved draft rules for medicinal marijuana that could become a blueprint for regulating the recreational marijuana business. The proposal goes next to the Board of Supervisors, with a hearing scheduled for Dec. 6.
In Santa Rosa, the city decided in February to allow medical marijuana businesses to operate, with a permit, in industrial areas. A City Council committee has been working for much of the year on a comprehensive set of rules for the cannabis industry.
Now is the time for residents to weigh in. Contact your elected officials, or write a letter to the editor.
One of the biggest issues, one with implications for medical and recreational users, is whether to allow marijuana to be grown outdoors, especially in residential areas.
Proposition 64 allows people to grow up to six plants and prohibits restrictions on indoor cultivation, but the initiative specifically allows cities and counties to bar outdoor gardens.
Many residents object to the skunky smell of mature marijuana plants. They also worry about the potential for theft and other crime — not an insignificant concern as even the sponsors of Proposition 64 admit that the black market won’t disappear.
As a result, Sonoma, Windsor and Healdsburg have imposed moratoriums on nonmedical marijuana outdoor gardens. Petaluma allows three plants to be grown outdoors.
Santa Rosa has yet to address the issue. Sonoma County planners, acting over the objections of many rural residents, voted to allow medicinal marijuana growers to have as many as 25 outdoor plants in rural neighborhoods.
We have deep reservations about allowing pot to be grown outdoors in residential areas — for recreational or medicinal purposes. The potential for nuisance and crime is high, and we’re counting on the supervisors to give the issue careful scrutiny at their upcoming hearing. So are rural residents.
Another unanswered question for local policymakers is what the new administration will do. Sen. Jefferson Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for attorney general, has been sharply critical of efforts to change the rules. “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized,” Sessions said at a hearing in April.