Supes Say No Thanks' To Marijuana Regulation

Supes Say No Thanks' To Marijuana Regulation
Posted by CN Staff on April 06, 2005 at 12:44:39 PT
By K.C. Meadows, The Daily Journal
Source: Ukiah Daily Journal 
California -- In a rambling and inconclusive discussion, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday not to do anything about regulating or trying to make money off medical marijuana.The subject came up two weeks ago during a budget discussion when Supervisor Jim Wattenburger said he thought the county ought to think about taxing medical marijuana to help with the budget crisis.
Wattenburger then asked to have the subject put on this week's agenda and had representatives from the Health Department and the Sheriff's Department on hand to answer questions.But the supervisors themselves appeared to be at a loss over what they were being asked to discuss. Was it about raising revenue? Was it, as Wattenburger says he now sees it, about health? Or was it about possible abuses by the local medical marijuana dispensaries in the city of Ukiah, as supervisor Mike Delbar saw it? Wattenburger brought back to the board a proposal the county got a year ago from a for-profit organization, AHIMSA International of Agoura Hills, that is trying to get California counties to form dispensaries of their own with its help. AHIMSA says its plan could raise $16 billion annually for the state. It says the way it raises funds is by testing and ensuring the safety of the marijuana being dispensed to patients and then selling it.No one argues that currently a lot of medical marijuana being grown for patients is full of heavy metals and pesticides and can be dangerous.Wattenburger said after he saw the AHIMSA information about the dangers of unhealthy marijuana, he was convinced the county needed to do something."I mentioned this two weeks ago and have suddenly become the poster child of medical marijuana advocacy," Wattenburger said. "I'd like to make it clear I'm not in favor of the illegal type of marijuana, the broad growing for greed' situation, only medical marijuana for legitimate reasons. It seems to me, and the public perceives it also, that Prop. 215 was a half step," and that the next step should be some kind of regulation.As to the revenue side, Interim County Counsel Frank Zotter said that since medical marijuana wasn't defined as a prescription drug, it could probably be taxed but said more research would be needed.Health Department Director Carol Mordhorst told the board her department was going to be part of a state pilot program to implement the new state law, SB 420, which made medical marijuana ID cards a statewide program to be implemented primarily by county health departments. She said she would probably be coming to the board in May with her recommendations for this county's program, which would then switch the ID card system from the county sheriff to the Health Department and institute fees only to cover costs.No one had apparently taken the AHIMSA dispensing plan seriously in 2004 and didn't appear to now.The supervisors debated over a variety of things to do: send the medical marijuana debate to committee (but which committee?); let Wattenburger continue his own research; get staff to continue looking at the possibilities; or create an ad hoc committee of supervisors to begin looking into regulating the medical marijuana industry.In the end, they decided to table the whole issue and Wattenburger said he'd continue to look at it on his own.Source: Ukiah Daily Journal (CA)Author: K.C. Meadows, The Daily JournalPublished: Wednesday, April 06, 2005Copyright: 2005 Ukiah Daily JournalContact: udj pacific.netWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on April 06, 2005 at 13:53:10 PT
Related Article from The Press Democrat
Mendocino Supervisors Drop Pot Tax Plan***By Glenda AndersonWednesday, April 6, 2005 
Mendocino County supervisors on Tuesday shunned a proposal to study regulating and taxing medical pot, at least for now."The county has enough to do at the moment," said Supervisor David Colfax.The proposal was brought to the board by Ukiah-area Supervisor Jim Wattenburger."If it's going to be legal, then it has to be regulated," he said.California voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996, legalizing marijuana for medicinal use. Since then, pot gardens have been blossoming openly in Mendocino County, which already is renowned for its illegal marijuana crops. It's also openly sold at area cannabis clubs.Wattenburger last month called medical marijuana "a major economic driving force" that should be regulated like any other business. He estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars are being funneled through cannabis clubs.That's money the county's ailing budget could sorely use, Wattenburger said.But other supervisors doubted counties have the authority to collect taxes on medical pot profits, which remain illegal. Growers of medicinal pot are supposed to recoup only reasonable costs associated with production. The law does not define those costs.Local governments may not be able to tax pot sales, but they can collect fees from cannabis clubs to cover the cost of regulating them. Oakland began regulating clubs last year and several other cities, including Santa Rosa, Willits and San Francisco, are considering following suit by limiting the numbers and locations of cannabis clubs.Oakland charges between $5,000 and $20,000 to permit each club, depending on the number of patients they serve, said Erica Harrold, a spokeswoman for the city attorney's office.There are only two known clubs in Mendocino County, both of them in Ukiah. The county's Major Crimes Task Force shut down the only known club in the unincorporated portion of the county in February after its owner allegedly sold pot to undercover drug agents. That leaves the county without a club to regulate.While Wattenburger's proposal was billed as a pot taxing plan, he said his main concern is patient and public safety.He said he's worried legitimate medical marijuana patients could become more ill from smoking pot contaminated with pesticides, a concern shared by the county's agricultural commissioner. In January, Agricultural Commissioner Dave Bengston asked the state whether he should be regulating medical pot gardens and was curtly told no.Three of Wattenburger's fellow supervisors said the proposal to tax and regulate pot clubs is too complex to tackle, particularly at a time when the county is facing budget deficits.But they encouraged him to continue researching the issue himself and report back."I admire and applaud the effort," said Supervisor David Colfax.Wattenburger dropped his proposal to have a committee study medical pot problems and solutions rather than have it voted down.Copyright: 2005 The Press Democrat
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