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marijuana budA growing movement is emerging in Sonoma County, as medical marijuana advocates and industry professionals are turning out in droves to promote cannabis cultivation and industry standards. Due to an error in State legislation enacted last October, local cities around Sonoma County have been quickly moving policy forward to meet a March 1st deadline for local control. Alternately, the League of California Cities has been pushing bans for local jurisdictions hoping to retain local control.

Established cannabis advocacy groups representing patient’s rights, local medical marijuana dispensary networks, and growers are fast becoming regulars at City Council hearings and Board of Supervisors meetings to advocate against reactionary bans and for reasonable and clear guidelines on cultivation, distribution, and manufacturing regulations. Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, the County of Sonoma, Cotati, Petaluma, Sonoma, and Cloverdale have all recently discussed local marijuana policies and zoning allowances. 

A prominent industry leader and dispensary network, Peace in Medicine, with storefronts in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, has established itself as a compliant and safe avenue for patients to access high quality medical marijuana. According to Robert Jacob, executive director of Peace in Medicine, “I am concerned that banning cultivation within any jurisdiction in Sonoma County would have adverse consequences. The negative impact would be felt not only by patients, but by small cultivators as well, like mom and pop business supplementing their Social Security or those simply trying to make ends meet.”

A new industry group has emerged in the past year to specifically advocate for cannabis grower’s rights and responsibilities called the Sonoma County Growers Alliance. “SCGA is encouraging jurisdictions to use MMRSA as an opportunity to improve their local ordinances surrounding medical cannabis,” said Tawnie Logan, executive director of the SCGA. “Enacting fear-based bans that push good businesses and actors away is not working for the safety of residents or promoting the best economic well being of our community. Bans simply don’t work.” 

Jacob, also a member of the Sebastopol City Council, said, “I have never seen so many of our industry professionals attending city council meetings and stepping up to participate civically. The regulations have enabled a whole new sector of workforce to come forward as full community participants.”

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Santa Rosa has reconvened its three councilmember Ad-Hoc Marijuana Committee. On January 11, this committee unanimously recommended to the full Santa Rosa City Council that they pass an emergency ordinance allowing commercial cultivation in select industrial zoned areas until more robust policy can be developed in the coming year. 

The Santa Rosa Planning Commission met on this issue January 14th.  The full Santa Rosa City Council will be considering the recommendations of the marijuana sub-committee at their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, January 19, 2016.

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