10. Legalization is coming. Some version of cannabis legalization will appear on the November 2016 ballot, a monster voting year due to the presidential election. Voters may be faced with a version of what’s known as the Correa bill (sponsored by state Sen. Lou Correa; the bill died last year in the Assembly Appropriations Committee). Or they could vote on the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative 2016, or the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2016. CCHI’s 2014 version would have legalized use and possession of cannabis grown for personal consumption. It died for lack of enough signatures. MCLR’s 2014 version included taxation and regulation. Correa’s bill received backing from the California League of Cities and law enforcement; it’s considered the strictest of the three.
9. In Monterey County, most cities are still digging in their heels in prohibiting dispensaries and other pot businesses. Most cities have zoning laws to keep medical pot dispensaries from opening. Pebble Beach philanthropist and multiple sclerosis patient Valentia Piccinini has tried, to no avail, to get approval for a dispensary in the city of Monterey. City Manager Mike McCarthy says her efforts, which began last year, haven’t moved forward because no council member has put it on the agenda yet.
8. Despite the zoning, many cities are still getting inquiries from cannabis businesses. In Seaside, which has an ordinance against dispensaries, City Manager John Dunn received a call in late February from a man wanting to open a cannabis-consultation service. Salinas, which also has an ordinance, just received an inquiry from a guy with a San Francisco area code wanting to open a wholesale bakery, according to the Weekly’s Public Record Act request.
7. Things have slowed down for the one city poised to open a dispensary. Del Rey Oaks may still become become the first city in the county to allow a dispensary to open. Last October, the City Council voted to approve an ordinance regulating dispensaries. Lonna Lewis-Blodgett and Bob Blodgett, hoteliers in Santa Cruz County, intend to open a dispensary at 800 Portola Drive. It was, in fact, supposed to have opened already. DRO Mayor Jerry Edelen reports construction issues have pushed back the timeline a bit, but it should be opening in the next month.
6. Cannabis businesses are also looking to South County. Salinas-based attorney Aaron Johnson says the city of Greenfield has agendized discussion of an ordinance that would include not only dispensaries, but grows as well. Johnson, meanwhile, was planning to take Mayor John Huerta on a tour of some of San Francisco Bay Area’s best-run dispensaries as an example of what could be.
5. Despite ordinances, some citizens’ groups are thinking about how cannabis can benefit cities. The conservative Salinas Taxpayers Association thinks local policy-makers are considering laws that would allow and tax dispensaries in Salinas. The taxpayers’ group is looking at the possibility as a huge moneymaker for the city, and they’re holding a forum on it, June 8, location to be determined. STA representative Rick Giffin says if the city regulates and taxes pot now, the revenue will stay in the city.
4. Ag policymakers also are thinking about cannabis, at least on a preliminary level. Norm Groot, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, says, “We are watching this, yes, but no formal effort has been taken at this time. This is an ongoing discussion and at some point, we will determine how best to approach this ‘new’ sector of ag, if legitimized.”
3. Looking at how to capture revenue now is a smart bet for later. Market research by the ArcView Group puts the cannabis marketplace right now at $1.7 billion and maybe as much as $2.7 billion in the U.S., with California comprising 49 percent of the market. That’s pre-full legalization.
2. Legalization is on the minds of many in Congress. Three senators (Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, and Cory Booker, D-New Jersey) in March introduced a bill that would remove federal prohibitions on medical marijuana use in states like California, where it’s already legal. That means, for example, doctors at Veterans Affairs clinics would be able to prescribe medical cannabis.
1. U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, was on top of this long before his colleagues in the senate. Last June, Farr and Dana Rohrabacher, R – Huntington Beach, passed an amendment to the 2015 Commerce, Justice & Science appropriations bill preventing the Department of Justice from using its funds to arrest and prosecute medical marijuana patients or distributors acting in compliance with state law.
(Editor's note: An earlier version of this story stated that State Attorney General Kamala Harris supports the Marijuana Control Legalization and Revenue Act. Harris' Press Secretary Kristin Ford says Harris has not taken a position on the current act or an earlier version.)