New regulations proposed by the state’s relatively new Bureau of Cannabis Control have prompted a discussion of Catalina’s existing rules governing the delivery of medical marijuana.
The state proposal prompted a lively discussion at Tuesday’s council meeting and sent much of the city’s earlier work on cannabis regulation up in smoke.
Catalina officials were surprised by a new directive by the state agency that governs marijuana in the state because the new rules would prohibit the transport of pot “by aircraft, watercraft, rail, drone, human powered or unmanned vehicle.”
The new rules would also seem to limit the ability of city officials to regulate deliveries into the city, although the mash up of federal and state laws and regulations left many unanswered questions and no solid answers for the questions that are clear.
Federal law already prohibits the carriage of pot across the channel in federal waters and if the new state regulations go into effect, it is unclear how medical or recreational marijuana could legally be delivered to the island.
Officials are under no illusion that the feds are waiting to stop passengers boarding the carriers with pot purchased legally on the mainland, but according to Harbormaster J.J. Poindexter, they potentially, and legally, could be arrested if sentiment changed.
An ad-hoc task force last year reached out to the major cross-channel carriers to discuss the issue, and was basically told that as long as it was against federal law, the major cross channel carriers either could or would not risk their business by wholesale carrying pot as freight across the channel, according to council member Cinde MacGugan-Cassidy, who took part in the discussions.
Mayor Anni Marshal was quick to note Avalon was in the process of awarding a delivery permit for medical marijuana only.
The new regulations, if approved, make it questionable whether the city could regulate the number of delivery services in the city.
City Attorney Scott Campbell said the proposed new state regulations would prohibit regulation of the number of delivery services allowed in that any licensed service could deliver to any city. Also, he said the prohibitions apparently do not allow for getting pot across the channel.
Pam Albers, a former city attorney and now a member of the council, cited a number of earlier citations in the law and seemingly questioned the work already done on the issue. “I’m surprised we had not looked into this before,” she said citing contradictions in the law even before the new directive.
She questioned “on what basis” can Avalon give out permits with a system at odds with “language in the code.”
Campbell said during the two hour debate that the Council, when drafting their pot ordinance, “decided that they were going to stay out of it,” deciding to take a walk on the issue of clarifying “how (marijuana) it gets here.”
The council discussed the possibility of a “carve out” in the new regulations, which would not change federal law but would, if allowed by state officials, not prohibit waterborne transportation or other means in the pending state regulations. “We’re the only island folks here “ (in California), said Marshall.
Albers said the debate brings out “bigger questions.” Even though the voters of California approved a law to make marijuana legal to possess by its citizens, the council must battle a “repressive federal government” and now awkward state regulations.
A citizen suggested the city consult officials in the state of Washington, where pot is legal and where many islands exist. Perhaps they have figured it out, she said.
The council decided to have Campbell investigate the matter further and get back to the council.
Meanwhile, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control has scheduled a hearing on the proposed new regulations next week.