Progress and congress

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

What’s up with that bill to create comprehensive medical marijuana regulations in California? Any progress?

—Willy Wonky

There has been progress, but I feel like they may be making it worse. Assembly Bill 266 has been amended (again) in the Legislature and the new one is horrible. Cities and counties can still ban cannabis clubs (although Dale Gieringer, the head of CA NORML, expects this rule to be changed), the grow limits are way too small, there’s a $50 per plant fee (!), yadda yadda. You can read it for yourself (, but you may not like it very much.

Here is my note to legislators: Marijuana is not crack, or even Sudafed. There is no reason to be all ridiculous with these regulations. Keep it simple: 600 feet from kids, reasonable taxes and fees like $10 per plant with a 5,000-plant limit for commercial growers, a 5 percent excise tax and $1,200 per year for commercial licenses. Make cities and counties that want to ban dispensaries hold a vote. If they vote against being involved in the cannabis industry, that’s cool, but then they don’t get a cut of the marijuana-tax revenues. Throw in a six-plant or, say, 200-square-feet-per-home grow limit, and Bob’s your uncle. No muss, no fuss, and we can all kick back and blaze one in celebration. This shouldn’t be that hard to do, but we are talking politics. Hopefully they can figure it out before too long.

Whatup. I heard a tribe in California got raided. I thought Native American tribes were allowed to grow weed?

—Little Big Joint

You are correct on both accounts. A veritable alphabet soup (DEA, BIA, ATF, all the locals) of law enforcement agencies swooped onto the Alturas Indian Rancheria (it’s in northeast Cali, just south of Goose Lake) and seized about 12,000 plants along with 100 pounds of processed marijuana. No one was arrested.

In December of 2014, the DOJ circulated a memo saying tribes could grow pot. The memo also says some things about federal guidelines and state law. Listen: I am of the firm belief that Native American tribes should be able to do whatever the fuck they want. The radical rabble-rouser that lives inside my head decries this raid as a straight-up smash-and-grab robbery, and yet another example of the federal government saying one thing and the agents of that same government doing something else entirely. The more reasonable person in my head thinks that maybe a 12,000-plant operation from a tribe with only five members, seemingly bankrolled by a tobacco company from Canada, may not be the best way to start a gray-market business. But then I go back to my first point and tell myself to have a seat. All this really means is that the feds need to go ahead and remove marijuana from the schedule of controlled substances. Then maybe the DEA will stop robbing people.