Take care with cannabis

Chico’s City Council should be inclusive in its efforts to shape local regulation

Tuesday evening’s regular Chico City Council meeting felt a little bit like it did nearly a decade ago, when the panel made its first attempt to come to terms with a state law that allowed for the use of marijuana.

Back then, the council attempted to regulate medicinal cannabis under what was then the 15-year-old Compassionate Use Act—also known as Proposition 215—which state voters approved in 1996. Under consideration was cultivation, processing and distribution facilities.

The panel spent a lot of time and effort coming up with a plan based on zoning and finally voted to adopt an ordinance. However, ultimately, after pushback from the Butte County district attorney and veiled threats of prosecution via a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, it rescinded the ordinance on a split vote.

This past Tuesday (March 5), cannabis regulation was back on the agenda. This time, however, the council is looking to regulate the plant under the state law that legalized it for recreational use, Proposition 64. Among other things, that 2016 voter initiative allows local governments to regulate commercial cultivation and sales, including collecting taxes. (It also allows jurisdictions to ban cannabis businesses.)

A lot has changed over the past nine years, including the fact that marijuana is now legal for either recreational or medicinal use in at least 33 states and the District of Columbia. Interestingly, despite the fact that an existing black market has thrived behind the scenes in Chico for decades, many residents showed up to express opposition. We found some comments hyperbolic and out of touch.

However, we saw validity in some concerns. Chief among them were two points: One, the panel appeared to be moving at breakneck speed to get something on the books. And two, the formation of an ad hoc cannabis advisory committee would be composed solely of pro-pot community members.

The CN&R has long advocated for the legalization of marijuana for adults. That’s because prohibition has served only to buoy the black market. We think it would be safer and more cost-effective for the public to be able to purchase cannabis as they would alcohol or tobacco.

Now that it is legal in California—and the federal government has continued a hands-off policy—it’s time for Chico to get with the program. We believe the best way to make that happen is transparently and with a diverse range of local stakeholders shaping the way forward, one step at a time. This isn’t a race.