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Orange County considers how to regulate marijuana in unincorporated land

(OCRegister) In the wake of Prop 64’s passage legalizing recreational marijuana use in California, Orange County has formed a committee to help decide how the county might regulate and police cannabis cultivation and related businesses on its unincorporated land. County supervisors said Tuesday that they hope the committee – which comprises the county’s lawyers, law enforcement agencies, agriculture commissioner and public works department – can advise them on the potential impact of marijuana businesses. “The question is, are we going to allow cultivation out in these open spaces?” Supervisor Todd Spitzer****said, adding that he supported banning such operations. “If we don’t start to do something, we could have people start cultivating out in the canyons, and then we’re going to have an enforcement issue and I’m going to be in no-man’s land.” If the board allows some commercial cannabis activity, it would also need to create health and safety regulations and could decide to levy an additional tax. Orange County’s state lobbyist, Amy Jenkins, who also represents the California Cannabis Industry Association, advised the board to develop its policy this year. Supervisors who spoke about the issue Tuesday were largely opposed to allowing marijuana businesses to operate on county land. Supervisors Lisa Bartlett and Andrew Do said they thought the board should delay expanding the committee or seeking additional advice until President-elect Donald Trump and attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions signal whether they will pursue enforcement of federal marijuana laws. Do said he thought it was “an implicit defiance of the law” to attempt to regulate something at the county level that is illegal at the federal level. But Supervisor Shawn Nelson compared small marijuana businesses to breweries, noted that marijuana is less harmful to users than alcohol and pointed out that the board will have no ability to outlaw cannabis growing for personal use. “It’s no longer, ‘What’s (the) opinion about it?’” Nelson said. “It’s, ‘Do you want to be practical about some policies or not?’”

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